Whence the Stalin-Tito Quarrel? – Part III

Dear Readers:

Continuing my review of this piece by Evgeny Krutikov. Where we left off, we learned that Albanians had caused two old Slavic allies and cousins (Russians and Serbs) to quarrel.  But who were these Albanians and how could such a thing happen?


On January 19, 1948, Tito sent a telegram to the Albanian leader Enver Hoxha asking him to please allow a Yugoslav division to set up base in the south of Albania.  Tito needed to avert a feared Anglo-American invasion from Greece.  This was not a paranoid fear, as full-fledged civil war was currently raging in Greece.  This war  lasted from 1946 to 1949 and involved two teams:  Team Greek Government (a right-wing fascist-type thing backed by the USA, naturally); vs Team Communists, aka the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE).  Historians regard this conflict as the very first proxy war of the Cold War.  The DSE was the military wing of the Greek Communist Party, containing many fighters hardened in the partisan war against German and Italian occupiers.  They were supported by the new Balkan Communist Workers States of Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria.

Albania’s Dear Leader, Enver Hoxha

The other side had the U.S. support, along with local fascist forces who called themselves the Hellenic Army.  In the end, the DSE lost the war both on and off the battlefield; the wiki entry quotes some of the reasons for the demoralization, and the eventual defeat:

Greece in the end was funded by the US (through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan) and joined NATO (1952), while the insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, who wanted the war ended, and Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito, who wanted it to continue.  Tito was committed to helping the Greek Communists in their efforts, a stance that caused political complications with Stalin, as he had recently agreed with Winston Churchill not to support the Communists in Greece, as documented in their Percentages Agreement of October 1944.

In other words, not unlike the Spanish Civil War of a decade earlier, Greek Communists found themselves thrown under the bus.  By Stalin!

Stalin: “It’s true that I will still be ugly tomorrow. But you will still be a fat slob!”

Proving once again, as I have tried to explain (more than once) to hard-core Stalinists, that Stalin really did not care about anything else in the world, other than building his own little nest in Russia.  And also that the supposedly wily Stalin was dumb enough to trust Churchill.

But speaking of Dear Leaders, we must take a tiny detour here and look at the life of a rather remarkable man, Enver Hoxha.  Admittedly, I know very little about this guy and am basically just summarizing stuff that is in his wiki.  But he deserves much, much more, like whole books should be written about him.

So, Enver was born in 1908, in an Albania that was still part of the Ottoman Empire.  Apparently most of the Albanians had converted to Turk-style Islam.  Enver studied in France and then worked as a teacher.  In 1939 Albania was invaded by fascist Italy.  A then-apolitical Enver didn’t care, and went to Italy on vacation; but when he was living in Italy he suddenly became a Communist.  In 1941 he became one of the leaders of the newly-founded Communist Party of Albania.  He rose very quickly in the ranks and became First Secretary of the Party in 1943.  Albanian Communists fought as partisans against the Nazis, but received more aid from the British intelligence services, than they did from the Soviet Union.  (Which actually explains a lot, later in the story…)

“You will all bow to ME, King Zog!”

The war was still raging when Albanian Communists and Yugoslav Communists started feuding with each — over the status of Kosovo!  [See, nothing every changes in this world.]  Then, under Hoxha’s capable leadership, the Albanian Communists won their part of the war and expelled their Monarch, a man with the great name of King Zog.

Quoting again from wiki:

After liberation on 29 November 1944, several Albanian partisan divisions crossed the border into German-occupied Yugoslavia, where they fought alongside Tito’s partisans and the Soviet Red Army in a joint campaign which succeeded in driving out the last pockets of German resistance. Marshal Tito, during a Yugoslavian conference in later years, thanked Hoxha for the assistance that the Albanian partisans had given during the War for National Liberation (Lufta Nacionalçlirimtare).

This was the high point of Yugoslav-Albanian friendship; from there it was downhill all the way.  Thus proving, once again, that the main problem with Communism, is that Communists can’t get along with each other.  And I don’t take sides here; it seems like both men (Tito and Hoxha) were good men, and brave men; and each had a good reason for acting as he did.  But, be that as it may, Yugoslavia and Albania became bitter enemies.  And that’s not even mentioning the complication added by Stalin, when he took sides in this dogfight:  Due to his own feud with Tito, and acting like a mean girl in a cheerleading squad, Stalin attempted to ally with Hoxha against Tito.  This was a tried and true tactic that Stalin had used successfully in the past among the Old Bolshevik milieu:  Stir the pot, exploit personality conflicts, turn people against each other, etc.  It had always worked wonderfully well in the Russian context, which Stalin understood like the back of his hand.  However, in the Balkan context, a completely alien milieu, everything just blew up in his face, eventually.

Georgi Dimitrov

Skipping over a lot of biography:  Hoxha weaved a fine line for many years, keeping Albania independent both from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union alike.  Either one of which behemoths would have turned his tiny statelet into a province and himself into a chained prisoner, probably.  In his older age (this was now the Khrushchev era), Hoxha even flirted with Maoism, as in, pretending to have some kind of ideology that was different from canonical Stalinism.  But I think it is safe to say that all of these supposed “ideological” or “philosophical” debates within the Stalinist movement were more like window dressing, and that the real struggle was just for survival, and for power.

Well, with that somewhat dissociated backstory, we now return to our existing main dogfight, the one between Stalin and Tito.  Recall that we left off with the cliff-hanging question, why is Stalin’s Cominform demanding that Tito should repent of his sins?  And now we know that, at this part of the story, at least, Stalin is kanoodling with Hoxha.  Tito does not want to end up in a Russian dungeon.  Nor does Hoxha want to end up in a Serbian dungeon.

And then it gets worse:  Georgi Dimitrov, the Bulgarian Communist leader, is urging all the neo-commie countries (much to the horror of über-Europeans Poland and Czechoslovakia) to band together into a common “Balkan Federation” – !

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Friendship of Peoples, Russian History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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