Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Alia, Ramiz (1925–)

Albanian politician and communist leader. Born on 18 October 1925 in Shköder, Albania, to a Muslim family from the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia, Ramiz Alia joined the Communist Party of Albania in 1943 and served as political commissar with Albanian troops fighting with Yugoslav partisans against Axis forces. After the war, he held leadership positions in the party's youth organization and joined the party's Central Committee and the Politburo in 1948 and 1956, respectively. A protégé of Albanian leader Enver Hoxha, Alia rose through the party ranks, holding various party and governmental positions over the next several decades.

In the early 1980s, Alia became Hoxha's chosen successor. After Hoxha's death in April 1985, Alia became first secretary of the Central Committee and de facto leader of Albania. As such, he pledged to uphold his predecessor's policies. Albania's economic problems and international isolation, however, influenced Alia's pursuit of pragmatic reforms, including easing restrictions on international trade, land ownership, and religion. But these reforms did little to stop the country's downward spiral. By the end of 1990, demonstrations had erupted throughout Albania, and opposition to the Communist Party's monopoly forced Alia to abandon one-party rule. In March 1991 Alia permitted multi-party elections, which the communists nonetheless won. Although Alia lost his seat in parliament, he became president in April 1991 but was forced to relinquish his party posts. In a free election held in March 1992, the opposition routed the communists in the now-renamed Socialist Party. As a result, Alia resigned the presidency on 3 April 1992. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted of political corruption while serving in office. After a year in prison, Alia retired from public life.

Gregory C. Ference


Further Reading
Vickers, Miranda, and James Pettifer. Albania: From Anarchy to Balkan Identity. New York: New York University Press, 1997.
 

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