Memoirs from my Meetings with Stalin
The external situation of the PRA. Its relations with the neighbouring states and the Anglo-Americans. The Corfu Channel incident and the Hague Court. The political, economic and social-class situation in Albania. Stalin's all round interest in and high estimation of our country, people and Party. "For a party to be in power and remain illegal, doesn't make sense". "Your Communist Party can call itself the Party of Labour".
On July 14, 1947 I arrived in Moscow at the head of the first official delegation of the Government of the People's Republic of Albania and the Communist Party of Albania on a friendly visit to the Soviet Union. The joy of my comrades and I, that we were appointed by the Central Committee of the Party to go to Moscow where we would meet the great Stalin, was indescribable. Since the time when we
first became acquainted with the Marxist-Leninist theory. we had always dreamed, night and day, of meeting Stalin. During the period of the Antifascist National Liberation War this desire had grown even stronger. Next to the outstanding figures of Marx, Engels and Lenin, Comrade Stalin was extremely respected and dear to us, because his teachings led us to the founding of the Communist Party of Albania as a party of the Leninist type, inspired us during the National Liberation War and were helping us in the construction of socialism. The talks with Stalin and his advice would be a guide in the great and arduous work which we were doing to consolidate the victories achieved. For all these reasons, our first visit to the Soviet Union was a cause of indescribable joy and great satisfaction not only for the communists and for us, the members of the delegation, but also for the entire Albanian people, who had been eagerly awaiting this visit and hailed it with great enthusiasm. As we saw with our own eyes and felt in our hearts. Stalin and the Soviet Government welcomed our delegation in a very cordial and warm manner, with sincere affection.
During the twelve days of our stay in Moscow we met Comrade Stalin several times, and the talks which we held with him, his sincere, comradely advice and instructions, have remained and will remain forever dear to us.
The day of my first meeting with Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin will remain unforgettable. It was the 6th of July 1947, the third day of our stay in Moscow. It was an extraordinary day from the outset: in the morning we went to the Mausoleum of the great Lenin where we bowed our heads in deep respect before the body of the brilliant leader of the revolution, before that man whose name and colossal work was deeply engrave in our minds and hearts, and had enlightened us on the glorious road of our struggle for freedom, the revolution and socialism. On this occasion, in the name of the Albanian people, our Communist Party and in my own name personally, I laid a wreath of many-coloured flowers at the entrance to the Mausoleum of the immortal Lenin. From there after visiting the graves of the valiant fighters of the October Socialist Revolution, the outstanding militants of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet state, buried in the walls of the Kremlin, we went to the Central Museum of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. For more than two hours we went from one hall to the other, acquainting ourselves at first-hand with documents and exhibits which reflected in detail the life and outstanding work of the great Lenin. Before we left, in the Visitors' Book of the, Museum, among others, I also wrote these words: "The cause of Lenin will live on forever in the future generations. The memory of him will live forever in the hearts of the Albanian people".
That same day, full of indelible impressions and emotions, we were received by the disciple and loyal continuer of the work of Lenin. Josep Vissarionovich Stalin, who talked with us at length. From the beginning he created such a comradely atmosphere that we were very quickly relieved of that natural emotion which we felt when we entered his office, a large room, with a long table for meetings, close to his writing desk. Only a few minutes after exchanging the initial courtesies, we felt as though we were not talking to the great Stalin, but sitting with a comrade, whom we had met before and with whom we had talked many times. I was still young then, and the representative of a small party and country, therefore, in order to create the warmest and most comradely atmosphere for me, Stalin cracked some jokes and then began to speak with affection and great respect about our people, about their militant traditions of the past and their heroism in the National Liberation War. He spoke quietly, calmly and with a characteristic warmth which put me at ease.
Among other things, Comrade Stalin told us that he felt deep admiration for our people as a very ancient people of the Balkan region and with a long and valorous history. "I have acquainted myself, especially, with the heroism displayed by the Albanian people during the Anti-fascist National Liberation War," he continued, "but, of course, this knowledge of mine cannot, be broad and deep enough. Therefore, I would like you to tell us a little about your country, your people and the problems which are worrying you today."
After this, I began to speak and gave Comrade Stalin a description of the long and glorious historic road of our people, of their ceaseless wars for freedom, and independence. I dwelt in particular on the Period of the years of our National Liberation War, spoke about the founding of our Communist Party as a party of the Leninist type., about the decisive role it played and was playing as the only leading force in the war and the efforts of the Albanian people to win the freedom and independence of the Homeland, to overthrow the old feudal-bourgeois power. to set up the new people's power and to lead the country successfully towards profound socialist transformations. Availing myself of this opportunity, 1 thanked Comrade Stalin once again and expressed to him the deep gratitude of the Albanian communists and the entire Albanian people for the ardent support which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government and he personally had given our people and Party during the years of the war and were giving after the liberation of the Homeland.
I went on to describe to Comrade Stalin the deep-going political, economic and social transformations which had been carried out and were being consolidated, step by step, in Albania in the first years of the people's power. The internal political and economic situation of Albania,. I told him among other things, has improved appreciably.
These improvements have their base in the correct understanding of the need to overcome the difficulties and in the great efforts of the people and the Party to overcome these difficulties with toil and sweat. Our people are convinced of the correctness of their road and have unshakeable confidence in the Communist Party, the Government of our People's Republic, in their own constructive forces. and in their sincere friends. and day by day are carrying out the tasks set to them, with a high level of mobilization. self-denial and enthusiasm.
Comrade Stalin expressed his joy over the successes of our people and Party in their work of construction and was interested to learn something more about the situation if classes in our country. He was especially interested in our working class and peasantry. He asked a lot of questions about these two classes of our society about which we exchanged many ideas that were to serve us later in organizing a sound work in the ranks of the working class and the poor and middle peasantry, and were to help us, also, in defining the stands that should be maintained towards the wealthy elements of the city and the kulaks in the countryside.
"The overwhelming majority of our people," I told Comrade Stalin, among other tings, in reply to his questions, "is comprised of poor peasants, and next come the middle peasants. We have a working class small in numbers, then we have quite a large number of craftsmen and townspeople engaged in petty commerce, and a minority of intellectuals. All these masses of working people responded to the call of our Communist Party, were mobilized in the war for the liberation of the Homeland and now are closely linked with the Party and the people's power."
"Has the working class of Albania any tradition of class struggle?" Comrade Stalin asked.
"Before the liberation of the country," I told him. this class was very small. It had just been created and was made up of a number of wage earners, apprentices or artisans dispersed among small enterprises and workshops. In the past, the workers in some towns of our country came out in strikes, but these were small and uncoordinated, due both to the small number of the workers and to the lack of organization in trade-unions. Irrespective of this," I told Comrade Stalin,"our Communist Party was founded as a party of the working class, which would be led by the MarxistLeninist ideology and would express and defend the interests of the proletariat and the broad working masses, in the first place, of the Albanian peasantry, which constituted the majority of our population."
Comrade Stalin asked us in detail about the situation of the middle and poor peasants in our country.
In reply to his questions, I told Comrade Stalin about the policy which our Party had followed, and the great, all-round work it had done since its founding in order to find support among the peasantry and to win it over to its side.
"We acted in that way," I said, "proceeding not only from the Marxist-Leninist principle that the peasantry is the closest and most natural ally of the proletariat in the revolution, but also from the fact that the peasantry in Albania constitutes the overwhelming majority of the population and through the centuries has been characterized by great patriotic and revolutionary traditions." Continuing our talk, I tried to describe the economic situation of the peasants after the liberation of the country, as well as their cultural and technical level. Besides affirming the lofty virtues of our peasantry as patriotic, hard-working, closely linked with the soil and the Homeland, and thirsting for freedom, development, and progress, I also spoke of the pronounced hangovers of the past and the economic and cultural backwardness of our peasantry, as well as of its deeply implanted pettybourgeois mentality. "Our Party," I stressed, "has had to fight with all its strength against this situation and we have achieved some successes, but we are aware that we must fight harder and more persistently in order to make the peasantry conscious, so that it will embrace and implement the line of the Party at every step."
Comrade Stalin replied: In general, the peasants are afraid of communism at first because they imagine that the communists will take the land and everything they have. The enemies,. he continued, "talk a great deal to the peasants in this direction with, the aim of detaching them from the alliance with the working class and turning them away from the policy of the party and the road of socialism. Therefore the careful and far-sighted work of the Communist Party is very important, as you also said, to ensure that the peasantry links itself indissolubly with the party and the working class."
On this occasion, I also gave Comrade Stalin a general outline of the social-class structure of our Party and explained that this structure faithfully reflected the very social structure of our people.
"This is the reason," I said, "why communists of peasant social status at present comprise the largest number of the members of our Party. The policy of our Party in this direction is that, step by step, parallel with the growth of the working class, the number of worker communists should increase respectively."
While assessing the policy which our Party had followed towards the masses in general and the peasantry in particular as correct, Comrade Stalin gave us some valuable, comradely advice about our work in the future. Apart from other things, he expressed the opinion that since the biggest percentage of its members were peasants, our Communist Party should call itself "The Party of Labour of Albania". "However," he stressed, "this is only an idea of mine, because it is you, your Party, that must decide."
After thanking Comrade Stalin for this valuable idea, I said:
"We shall put forward your proposal at the 1st Congress of the Party for which we are preparing, and I am confident that both the rankand-file of the Party and its leadership will find it appropriate and endorse it". Then I went on to expound to Comrade Stalin our idea about making our Party completely legal at the congress which we were preparing.
"In reality," I said among other things, "our Communist Party has been and is the only force which plays the leading role in the entire life of the country but formally it still retains its semiillegal status. It seems to us incorrect that this situation should continue any longer."*
"Quite right, quite right, replied Comrade Stalin. "For a party to be in power and remain illegal or consider itself illegal, doesn't make sense."
Going on to other questions, in connection with our armed forces, I explained to Comrade Stalin that the overwhelming majority of our army, which had emerged from the war, was made up of poor peasants, young workers and city intellectuals. The cadres of the army, the commanding officers had emerged from the war and had gained their experience of leadership in the course of the war.
I also spoke about the Soviet instructors we already had and asked him to send us some more.
"Having insufficient experience," I said, "the political work we carry out in the ranks of the army is weak, therefore I requested that they examined this question in order to help us raise the political work in the army to a higher level. It is true that we also have Yugoslav instructors," I said, "and I cannot say that they have no experience at all, but, in fact their experience is linited. They, too, have emerged from a great national liberation war, nevertheless, they cannot be compared with the Soviet officers".
After speaking about the high morale of our army, about its discipline, as well as a series of other problems, I asked Comrade Stalin to assign me a Soviet comrade with whom I would talk at greater length about the problems of our army and its needs for the future in more detail.
And then I raised the problem of strengthening our coastal defences.
"In particular, we need to strengthen the defences of Sazan Island and the coast of Vlora and Durres" I said "because these are very delicate positions. The enemy has attacked us there on two occasions. Later we could be attacked there by the Anglo-Americans or the Italians."
"As for the strengthening of your coastal defences,-"said Comrade Stalin among other things, "I agree with you. For our part, we shall help you, but the arms and other means of defence must be used by Albanians and not by Soviet forces. True, the mechanism of some of them is a bit complicated but you must send your people here to learn how to use them."
In connection with my request about sending political instructors for the army to Albania, Comrade Stalin said that they could not send us any more, because in order to work well, they must know the Albanian language and should also have a good knowledge of the situation and life of the Albanian people. "Therefore," he advised us, "it would be better for us to send people to the Soviet Union to learn from the Soviet experience and apply this expedence themselves in the ranks of the Albanian People's Army."
Then, Comrade Stalin inquired about the attempts of internal reaction in Albania and our stand towards it.
"We have struck and continue to strike hard at internal reaction," I told him. "We have had successes in our struggle to expose and defeat it. As for the physical liquidation of enemies, this has been done either in the direct clashes of our forces with the bands of armed criminals, or according to verdicts of people's courts in the trials of traitors and the closest collaborators of the occupiers. Despite the successes achieved, we still cannot say that internal reaction is no longer active. It is not capable of organizing any really dangerous attack upon us, but still it is making propaganda against us.
"The external enemy supports the internal enemy for its own purposes. External reaction tries to assist, encourage, and organize the internal enemy by means of agents, whom it has sent in by land or by air. Faced with the endeavours of the enemy, we have raised the revolutionary vigilance of the working masses. The people have captured these agents and a number of trials have been held against them. The public trials and sentences have had a great educational effect among the people and have aroused their confidence in the strength of our people's state power, and their respect for its justice. At the same time, these trials have exposed and demoralized the reactionary forces, both internal and external."
In the talks that followed with Comrade Stalin we devoted an important place to problems of the external situation, especially the relations of our state with the neighbouring countries. First I outlined the situation on our borders, spoke of the good relations we had with the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, while I dwelt in particular on our relations with Greece, in order to explain the situation on our sourthern border. I stressed that the Greek monarcho-fascists, who failed to realize their dream of "Greater Greece" that is, of seizing Southern Albania, were still committing innumerable border provocations. "Their aim," I told Comrade Stalin, "is to create a conflagration on our border, and in the wake of the war, to create a tense situation in the relations between Greece and us." I explained that we were trying, as far as we were able, to avert the provocations of the Greek monarcho-fascists, and not respond to them. "Only when they go too far from time to time and kill Our people," I went on, "we take retaliatory measures to make the monarcho fascists understand that Albania and its borders are inviolable. If they think of embarking on dangerous activities against the independence of Albania, they must know that we are in a position to defend our Homeland.
"All the aims of the monarcho-fascists and their efforts to blame Albania for the civil war which has broken out in Greece, in order to discredit our people's power at the meetings of the Security Council and at all international meetings, are instigated and supported by the imperialist powers." After dwelling extensively and at length on this situation, I gave Comrade Stalin a general outline of what stands we maintained at the Investigating Commission and the sub-commissions which had been created to clear up the tense situation in the relations between Albania and Greece.
I told Comrade Stalin everything we knew about the situation of the Greek democrats and also spoke of the support we gave their just struggle.
I did not fail to inform him openly also of our opinion in connection with a series of views of the comrades of the Greek Communist Party which seemed to us to be wrong. Likewise, I also expressed my own opinion on the prospects of the struggle of the Greek democrats.
Although Comrade Stalin must undoubtedly have been informed by Comrades Molotov, Vyshinsky and others, I mentioned the savage and despicable stands of the British and American imperialists towards Albania, stressing the brutal, unscrupulous and hostile stands they maintained towards us at the Paris Conference. I emphasized also that the situation between us and the Anglo-Americans had not altered in the least, that we considered their stand a constant threat. Not only were the Anglo-Americans continuing their very hostile propaganda against Albania in the international arena, but via Italy and Greece, they were committing land and air provocations, using as their subversive agents Albanian fugitives, Zogites, Ballists and fascists, whom they had assembled, organized and trained against us in the concentration camps which they had set up in Italy and elsewhere.
Likewise, I spoke about the British imperialists' raising the so-called Corfu Channel incident at the Security Council of the UNO and its investigation by the International Court at the Hague. "The Corfu Channel incident," I told Comrade Stalin, "is a concoction of the British from start to finish in order to provoke our country and to find a pretext for military intervention in the town of Saranda. We have never planted mines in the Ionian Sea. The mines that exploded had either been laid by the Germans in the time of war, or were deliberately laid by the British, later, so that they could explode them when some ships of theirs were in our territorial waters heading for Saranda. There was no reason for these ships to be sailing along our coast, they had not notified us about such a movement. After the mines went off, the British claimed that they had suffered material damage and loss of life. They wanted to enlarge the incident. We do not know the British suffered the damage they claimed and do not believe that they did, however, even if they did, we are in no way to blame.
"We are defending our rights at the International Court at the Hague, but this court is being manipulated by the Anglo-American imperialists, who are trumping up all sorts of charges in order to cover up their provocation and force us pay the British an indemnity."
I spoke with Comrade Stalin also about the Moscow Conference*, *(The Conference of the Foreign Ministers of the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Britain and France was held in Moscow from March 10 to April 24, 1947. The Conference discussed questions related to the Peace Treaty with Germany. At this Conference the representatives of the Soviet Union, Molotov and Vyshinsky, defended Albania's right to take part in the Peace Conference with Germany. This stand was also supported by the French representative, but was opposed by the representatives of Britain and the United States of America.), argued in support of our opinion about the Truman Doctrine in connection with Greece and the interference of the Anglo-Americans in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of Albania and explained our stand towards the "Marshall Plan", saying that we would not accept "aid" under this ill-famed plan.
I also discussed with comrade Stalin the problem of the extradition of war criminals who had fled our country. In all justice, we demanded that the governments of the countries which had given asylum to the war criminals should hand them over to us, to render account for their crimes before the people, though we knew that they would not do this because they were contingents of the Anglo-Americans and fascism in general.
I also put forward to Comrade Stalin the opinion of our Party about our relations with Italy. Italy had attacked us twice. It had burned our homes and killed our citizens, but we were Marxists, internationalists and wanted to have friendly relations with the Italian people. "The present government of Italy,"I told Comrade Stalin, "maintains a reactionary stand towards us; its aims towards our country are no different from those of former Italian governments. This government, under the influence of the Anglo-Americans, wants Albania to be dependent on it in one way or another, a thing which will never occur. To this end," I continued "the Anglo-Americans, together with the government in Rome, are maintaining and training on Italian soil contingents of fugitives whom they parachute into Albania as wreckers. They are making many attempts against our country, casting the stone and hiding the hand, but we are aware of all their aims.
We want to h. ave diplomatic relations with Italy, but the mentality of the Italian statesmen is negative in this direction.".
After listening to me attentively, Stalin said: "Despite all the difficulties and obstacles they are creating for you, the Americans and the British cannot attack you in this situation. Faced with your resolute stand, they cannot land on your territory, therefore do not worry. However, you must defend your Homeland, must take all measures to strengthen your army and your borders, because the danger of war from the imperialists exists.
"The Greek monarcho-fascists," Stalin continued, "abetted and supported by the American and British imperialists, will continue to provoke you just to harass you and to disturb your peace. The men in the government in Athens today have trouble on their hand" he said, "because the civil war, which has broken out there, is directed against them and their patrons - the British and the Americans.
"As for Italy," Comrade Stalin continued, "the question is as you present it. The AngloAmericans will try to create bases there, to organize reaction and strengthen the De Gasperi Government. In this direction you must be vigilant and watch what the Albanian fugitives are up to there. Since the treaties have not been concluded, said Comrade Stalin, "the situation cannot be regarded as normalized. I think that, for the time being, you cannot establish relations with that country, therefore don't rush things."
"We agree," I said to Comrade Stalin, "that we should not be hasty in our relations with Italy, and in general we shall take measures to strengthen our borders.
"We have proposed to the Yugoslavs," I continued my exposition to Comrade Stalin, "that we establish contacts with each other and collaborate on the future defence of our borders from some eventual attack from Greece and Italy, but they have not replied to our proposal, claiming that they can discuss the matter with us only after studying the question. The collaboration we propose consists in the exchange of information with the Yugoslavs on the dangers that may threaten us from the external enemies, so that each country, within its own borders and with its own armies, is in a position to take appropriate measures to cope with any eventuality." I also informed Comrade Stalin that we had two divisions of our army on our southern border.
During the conversation I underlined the fact that some Yugoslav aircraft had landed in Tirana contrary to the recognized and accepted rules of relations among states. "From time to time," I said, "without informing us, the Yugoslav comrades do some condemnable things, as in this concrete case. It is not right that the Yugoslav aircraft should fly over Albanian territory without the knowledge of the Albanian Government. We have pointed out this violation to the Yugoslav comrades and they have replied that they made a mistake. Although we are friends, we cannotpennit them to infringe our territorial integrity. We are independent states, and without damaging our friendly relations, each must protect its sovereignty and rights, while at the same time, respecting the sovereignty and rights of the other."
"Are your people not happy about the relations with Yugoslavia?" Comrade Stalin asked me, and added, "It is a very good thing that you have friendly Yugoslavia on your border, because Albania is a small country and as such needs strong support from its friends."
I replied that it was true that every country, small or big, needed friends and allies and that we considered Yugoslavia a friendly country.
With Comrade Stalin and Comrade Molotov we talked in detail about the problems of the reconstruction of our country ravaged by the war and the construction of the new Albania. I gave them a description of the state of our economy, the first socialist transformations in the economy and the great prospects which were opening up to us, the successes which we had achieved and the problerns and great difficulties we were facing.
Stalin expressed his satisfaction over the victories we had achieved and, time after time, put various questions to me. He was particularly interested in the state of our agriculture, the climatic conditions in Albania, the agricultural crops traditional to our people, etc.
"What cereals do you cultivate most?" he asked me among other things.
"Maize, first of all," I said. "Then wheat, rye ... "
"Isn't the maize worried by drought?".
"It is true," I said, "that drought often causes us great damage, but because of the very backward state of our agriculture and the great needs we have for bread grain, our peasant has learned to get a bit more from maize than from wheat. Meanwhile we are working to set up a, drainage and irrigation system, to drain the marshes and swamps.".
He listened to my answers, asked for more detail and often spoke himself giving very valuable advice. I recall that during those talks, Stalin inquired about the basis on which the Land Reform had been carried out in Albania, about the percentage of the land distributed to the poor and middle peasants, whether this Reform had affected the religious institutions, etc., etc.
Speaking of the assistance that the state of people's democracy gave the peasantry and the links of the working class with the peasantry, Stalin asked us about tractors, wanted to know whether we had machine and tractor stations in Albania and how we had organized them. After listening to my answer, he began to speak about this question and gave us a whole lot of valuable advice.
"You must set up the machine and tractor stations," he said among other things, "and strengthen them so that they work the land well, both for the state and the cooperatives and for the individual peasants. The tractor drivers must always be in the service of the peasantry, must know all about agriculture, the crops, the soils and must apply all this knowledge in practice to ensure that production increases without fail. Thts has great importance," he continued, "otherwise allround damage is caused. When we set up the first machine and tractor stations, it often occurred that we tilled the fields of the peasants, but prouction did not increase. This happened because it is not enough for a tractor driver to know only how to drive his tractor. He must also be a good fanner, must know when and how the land should be worked.
"Tractor drivers," Stalin continued, "are elements of the working class who work in continuous direct daily contact with the peasantry. Therefore, they must work conscientiously in order to strengthen the alliance between the working class and the labouring peasantry."
The attention with which he followed my explanations about our new economy and its course of development made a very deep impression on us. Both during the talk about these problems, and in all the other talks with him, one wonderful feature of his, among others, made an indelible impression on my mind: he never gave orders or sought to impose his opinion. He spoke, gave advice, made various proposals, but always added: "This is my opinion", "this is what we think. You, comrades, must judge and decide for yourselves, according to the concrete situation on the basis of your conditions.". His interest extended to every problem. While I was speaking about the state of our transport and the great difficulties we had to cope with, Stalin asked:
"Do you build small ships in Albania?"
"No," I said.
"Do you have pine-trees?"
"Yes, we do," I answered, "whole forests of them."
"Then you have a good basis," he said, for building simple means of sea transport in the future."
In the course of our talk he asked me about the situation of railway transport in Albania, what currency we had, what mines we had and whether the Albanian mines had been exploited by the Italians, etc.
I answered the questions Comrade Stalin asked. Concluding the talk, he said:
"At present, the Albanian economy is in a backward state. You comrades are starting everything from scratch. Therefore, besides your own struggle and efforts, we, too, will help you, to the best of our ability, to restore your economy and strengthen your army. We have studied your requests for aid," Comrade Stalin told me, "and we have agreed to fulfil all of them. We shall help you to equip your industry and agriculture with the necessary machinery, to strengthen your army and to develop education and culture.
The factories and other machinery we shall supply on credits and you will pay for them when you can, while the armaments will be given to you gratis, you'll never have to pay for them. We know that you need even more, but for the time being this is all we can do as we ourselves are still poor, because the war caused us great destruction.
"At the same time," Comrade Stalin continued, "we shall help you with specialists in order to speed up the process of the development of the Albanian economy and culture. As for oil, 1 think we'll send you Azerbaijani specialists, because they are masters of their profession. For its part, Albania should send the sons and daughters of workers and peasants to the Soviet Union, to learn and develop, so that they can help the advancement of their homeland."
During the days we stayed in Moscow, after each meeting and talk with Comrade Stalin, we had an even clearer and more intimate view of the real man - the modest, kindly, wise man, in this outstanding revolutionary, in this great Marxist. He loved the Soviet people whole-heartedly. To them, he had dedicated all his strength and energies, his heart and mind worked for them. And in every talk with him, in every activity he carried out, from the most important down to the most ordinary, these qualities distinguished him.
A few days after our arrival in Moscow, together with Comrade Stalin and other leaders of the Party and Soviet state I attended an all-Soviet physical-culture display at the Central Stadium of Moscow. With what keen interest Stalin watched this activity! For over two hours he followed the activities of the participants with rapt attention, and although it began to rain near the end of the display and Molotov entreated him several times to leave the stadium, he continued to watch theactivities attentively to the end, to make jokes, to wave his hand. I remember that a mass race had been organized as the final exercise. The runners made several circuits of the stadium. At the finish, a very tall, thin runner who had lagged behind, appeared before the tribune. He could hardly drag one leg after the other and his arms were flapping aimlessly, nevertheless he was trying to run. He was drenched by the rain. Stalin was watching this runner from a distance with a smile which expressed both pity and fatherly affection.
"Mily moy," he said as if talking to himself, "go home, go home, have a little rest, have something to eat and come back again! There will be other races to run..."
Stalin's great respect and affection for our people, his eagerness to learn as much as possible about the history and customs of the Albanian people remain indelible in our memory. At one of the meetings we had those days, during a dinner which Stalin put on for our delegation in the Krenilin, we had a very interesting conversation with him about the origin and language of the Albanian people.
"What is the origin and language of your people?" he asked me, among other things, "Are your people akin to the Basques?" And he continued, "I do not believe that the Albanian people came from the interior of Asia, nor are they of Turkish origin, because the Albanians are of a more ancient stock than the Turks. Perhaps, your people have common roots with those Etruscans who remained in your mountains, because the rest went to Italy, some were assimilated by the Romans and some crossed over to the Iberian Peninsula."
I replied to Comrade Stalin that the origin of our people was very ancient, that their language was Indo-European. "There are many theories on this question," I continued, "but the truth is that our origin is Illyrian. We are a people of Illyrian descent. There is also a theory which defends the thesis that the Albanian people are the most ancient people of the Balkans and that the Pelasgians were the ancient pre-Homeric forefathers of the Albanians."
I went on to explain that the Pelasgian theory was upheld for a time by many scholars, especially German scholars. "There is also an Albanian scholar" I told him, "who is known as an expert on Homer, who has reached the same conclusion, basing himself on some words used in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and which are in use today among the Albanian people, as for example, the word 'gur' (stone) which means 'kamenj' in Russian. Homer uses this word as a prefix to the Greek word, saying 'guri-petra'. Thus, on the basis of a few such words, bearing in mind the Oracle of Dodona, and some documents or etymologies of
words, which have undergone changes, according to many philological interpretations, the scientists conclude that our ancient forefathers were the Pelasgians, who lived on the Balkan Peninsula before the Greeks.
"However, I have not heard that the Albanias are of the same origin as the Basques," I said to Comrade Stalin. "Such a theory may well exist, like the theory you mentioned, that some of the Estruscans remained in Albania, while the rest branched off to settle in Italy, with some of them crossing over to the Iberian Peninsula, to Spain. It is possible that this theory, too, may have its supporters, but I have no knowledge of it."
"In the Caucasus we have a place called Albania," Stalin told me on one occasion. "Could it have any connection with Albania?"
"I don't know," I said, but it is a fact that during the centuries, many Albanians, forced by the savage Ottoman occupation, the wars and ferocious persecution of the Ottoman Sultans and Padishahs, were obliged to leave the land of their birth and settle in foreign lands where they have formed whole villages. This is what happened with thousands of Albanians who settled in Southern Italy back in the 15th century, after the death of our National Hero, Scanderbeg, and now there are whole areas inhabited by the Arbereshi of Italy, who still retain their language and the old customs of the Homeland of their forefathers al
though they have been living in a foreign land for 4-5 centuries. Likewise," I told Comrade Stalin, "many Albanians settled in Greece, where entire regions are inhabited by the Arbereshi of Greece, others settled in Turkey, Rumania, Bulgaria, America and elsewhere... However, as to the place in your country called 'Albania'," I said, "I know nothing concrete."
Then Stalin asked mea bout a number of words of our language. He wanted to know the names of some work tools, household utensils, etc. I told him the Albanian words, and after listening to them carefully he repeated them, made comparisons between the Albanian name for the tool and its equivalent in the language of the Albanians of the Caucasus. Now and then he turned to Molotov and Mikovan and sought their opinion. It turned out that the roots of the words compared had no similarity.
At this moment, Stalin pressed a button, and after a few seconds the general who was Stalin's aide-de-camp, a tall, very attentive man, who behaved towards us with great kindness and sympathy, came in.
"Comrade Enver Hoxha and I are trying to solve a problem, but we cannot," said Stalin, smiling at the general. "Please get in touch with professor (and he mentioned an outstanding Soviet linguist and historian. whose name has escaped my memory) and ask him on my behalf whether there is any connection between the Albanias of the Caucasus and those of Albania."
When the general left, Stalin picked up an orange, and said:
"In Russian this iscalled 'apyelsin'. What is it in Albanian?"
"Portokall," I replied.
Again he made the comparison, pronouncing the words of the two languages and shrugged his shoulders. Hardly ten minutes had passed when the general came in again.
"I have the professor's answer," he announced. -"He says there is no evidence at all of any connection between the Albanians of the Caucasus and those of Albania. However, he added that in the Ukraine, in the region of Odessa, there were several villages (about 7) inhabited by Albanians. The professor has precise information about this."
For my part, I instructed our ambassador in Moscow, there and then, to see to it that some of our students, who were studying history in the Soviet Union should do, their practice in these villages and study how and when these Albanians had settled in Odessa, whether they still preserved the language and customs of their forefathers, etc.
Stalin listened very attentively, as always, and said to me:
"Very good, that will be very good. Let your students do their practice there, and moreover, together with some of ours."
Continuing this free conversation with Comrade Stalin, I said: "In the past the Albanological sciences were not properly developed and those engaged in them were mostly foreign scholars. Apart from other things, this has led to the emergence of all sorts of theories about the origin of our people, language, etc. Nevertheless, they are almost all in agreement on one thing - the fact that the Albanian people and their language are of very ancient origin. However, it will be our own Albanologists, whom our Party and state will train carefully and provide with all the conditions necessary for their work, who will give the precise answer to these problems."
"Albania must march on its own feet," Stalin said, "because it has all the possibilities to do so."
"Without fail we shall forge ahead," I replied.
"For our part, we shall help the Albanian people whole-heartedly," said Comrade Stalin in the kindliest tone, "because the Albanians are fine people."
The whole dinner which Comrade Stalin put on in honour of our delegation passed in a very warm, cordial and intimate atmosphere. Stalin proposed the first toast to our people, to the further progress and prosperity of our country, to the Communist Party of Albania. Then he proposed a toast to me, Hysni* *(Comrade Hysni Kapo, then vice-minister of foreign affairsr of the PRA, was a member of the delegation which went to Moscow in July 1947) and all the members of the Albanian delegation. I recall that later during the dinner, when I spoke to him about the great resistance our people had put up through the centuries against foreign invasions, Comrade Stalin described our people as an heroic people and again proposed a toast to them. Apart from the free chat we had together, from time to time he talked to the others, made jokes and prop~ toasts. He did not eat much, but kept his glass of red wine close at hand and clinked it with ours with a smile at every toast.
After the dinner, Comrade Stalin invited us to go to the Kremlin cinema where, apart from some Soviet newsreels, we saw the Soviet feature film "The Tractor Driver". We sat together on a sofa, and I was impressed by the attention with which Stalin followed this new Soviet film. Frequently he would raise his warm voice to comment on various moments of the events treated in the film. He was especially pleased with the way in which the main character in the film, a vanguard tractor driver, in order to win the confidence of his comrades and the fanners, struggled to become well acquainted with the customs and the behaviour of the people in the countryside, their ideas and aspirations. By working and living among the people, this tractor driver succeeded in becoming a leader honoured and respected by the peasants. At this moment Stalin said:
"To be able to lead, you must know the masses, and in order to know them, you must go down among the masses."
It was past midnight when we rose to leave. At that moment :Stalin invited us once again to take our glasses of wine and for the third time proposed a toast to "the heroic Albanian people".
After this he shook hands with us one by one and, when he gave me his hand, said:
"Give my cordial regards to the heroic Albanian people, whom I wish success!"
On July 26, 1947, our delegation, very satisfied with the meetings and talks with Comrade Stalin, set off to return to the Homeland.
* The 11th Plenum of the CC of the CPA which met from 13-24th of September 1948 and the lst Congress of the CPA decided on the complete and immediate legalization of the CPA. Both the Plenum and the Congress considered the keeping of the Party until that time in a semi-illegal status a mistake which had come about as a result of the pressure and influence of the Trotskyite Yugoslav leadership, which, for ulterior motives, while considering the Front the main leading force of the country, demanded that the Party should be merged with the Front, hence underrating and negating the Communist Party itself and its leading role both in the Front and in the whole life of the country.