Ramiz Alia in 1950
30 April 1991 – 3 April 1992
|Preceded by||Himself as Chairman of the Presidium of the People's Assembly|
|Succeeded by||Sali Berisha|
22 November 1982 – 30 April 1991
|Leader||Enver Hoxha (First Secretary)|
|Preceded by||Haxhi Lleshi|
|Succeeded by||Himself as President|
13 April 1985 – 13 June 1991
|Preceded by||Enver Hoxha|
|Succeeded by||End of People's Republic of Albania|
|Born||18 October 1925|
Shkodër, Albanian Republic (now Albania)
|Died||7 October 2011 (aged 85)|
|Political party||Party of Labour (1961–1991)|
Socialist Party (1991–2011)
|Children||3 (Zana, Besa, Arben)|
Ramiz Tafë Alia (pronunciation (help·info); 18 October 1925 – 7 October 2011) was an Albanian politician serving as the second and last leader of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania from 1985 to 1991, serving as First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania. He was also the country's head of state from 1982 to 1992. He had been designated as successor by Enver Hoxha and took power after Hoxha died.
Early life and politics
Alia was born on 18 October 1925 in Shkoder to Muslim parents who fled from persecution in Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He grew up and spent his childhood in Tirana. In the early part of World War II Alia was a member of a fascist youth organisation known as the Fascist Lictor Youth Organisation but joined the underground Albanian Communist Youth Organisation in 1941. In 1943, he became a member of the Albanian Communist Party. He had risen rapidly under Hoxha's patronage and by 1961 was a full member of the ruling Political Bureau (Politburo of the Party of Labour of Albania).
Hoxha chose Alia for several reasons. First, Alia had long been a militant follower of Marxism–Leninism and supported Hoxha's policy of national self-reliance. Alia also was favoured by Hoxha's wife Nexhmije, who had once been his instructor at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. His political experience was similar to that of Hoxha; and in as much as he appeared to share Hoxha's views on most foreign and domestic issues, he accommodated himself to the totalitarian mode of ruling.
First Secretary of the Albanian Labour Party
After World War II, Alia resumed his duties in the Communist Youth Organisation, and at the First Congress of the Albanian Party of Labour in November 1948, he was elected to its Central Committee and was assigned to the department of agitation and propaganda. When he succeeded Hoxha in 1985, the country was in grave difficulty. Political apathy and cynicism were pervasive, with large segments of the population having rejected the government's values. The economy, which suffered from low productivity and permanent shortages of the most basic foodstuffs, showed no sign of improvement. Social controls and self-discipline had eroded. The intelligentsia was beginning to resist strict party controls and to criticise the government's failure to observe international standards of human rights. Apparently recognising the depth and extent of the societal malaise, Alia cautiously and slowly began to make changes in the system. His first target was the economic system. In an effort to improve economic efficiency, Alia introduced some economic decentralisation and price reform in specific sectors.
Alia did not relax censorship, but he did allow public discussions of Albania's societal problems and encouraged debates among writers and artists on cultural issues. In response to international criticism of Albania's record on human rights, the new leadership loosened some political controls and ceased to apply repression on a mass scale. In 1989, general amnesties brought about the release of many long-term prisoners. He strengthened ties with Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. A loosening of restrictions on travel and tourism resulted in a more promising outlook for Albania's tourist trade.
Transition to multi-party system and presidency
Despite Alia's efforts to proceed with change on a limited, cautious basis, reform from above threatened to turn into reform from below, largely because of the increasingly vocal demands of Albania's youth. On 9 December 1990, student demonstrators marched from the Enver Hoxha University (now University of Tirana) at Tirana through the streets of the capital shouting slogans and demanding reforms. By 11 December, the number of participants had reached almost 3,000. In an effort to quell the student unrest, which had led to clashes with riot police, Alia met with the students and agreed to take further steps toward democratization. The students informed Alia that they wanted to create an independent political organisation of students and youth. Alia's response was that such an organisation had to be registered with the Ministry of Justice.
In his traditional New Year's message to the Albanian people, Alia welcomed the changes that had been occurring in the country and claimed that 1991 would be a turning point in terms of the economy. Despite positive signs of change, many Albanians were still trying to leave their country. At the end of 1990, as many as 5,000 Albanians crossed over the mountainous border into Greece. Young people motivated by economic dissatisfaction made up the bulk of the refugees.
Alia was a crucial figure in the peaceful political transition of the early 1990s. Many believe that he helped the rise to power of the anti-communist opposition forces, thus eliminating possible bloodshed. He managed to remain a key political figure throughout several political crises. Nonetheless, with Albania in the throes of a grave economic crisis, Alia had to face challenges that he could not surmount. After the collapse of a coalition government in December 1991 and the Democratic Party of Albania's (DPA) landslide victory in the spring 1992 general election, he resigned as president on 3 April 1992. On 9 April the People's Assembly elected DPA leader Sali Berisha as Albania's new head of state.
On 21 May 1994, senior officials from the Communist government, including Ramiz Alia, went on trial. Alia was charged with abuse of power and misappropriation of state funds, as was prime minister Adil Carçani, deputy prime minister Manush Myftiu, and Rita Marko who was a vice-president.
Alia had been placed under house arrest in August 1992 and his detention was converted into imprisonment in August 1993. In court he claimed he was the victim of a political show trial and demanded that the trial be broadcast on television, a request denied by the presiding judge. The trial was monitored by a Human Rights Watch representative and proceeded with only minor due process irregularities. The ten defendants were found guilty as charged and sentenced to between three and nine years in prison; Alia received a nine-year sentence.
A court of appeals subsequently reduced some of the sentences, notably Alia's to five years. Alia, Myftiu, Carçani, Stefani and Isai were also ordered to repay various sums to the state. On 30 November, the Court of Cassation reduced Alia's term by an additional three years. On 7 July 1995, Ramiz Alia was freed from jail. However, his freedom was short-lived and in 1996 he was charged with committing crimes against humanity during his term, and was imprisoned anew in March. The trial against him began on 18 February 1997, but he escaped from the prison following the unrest in the country and the desertion of the guards. Amid the unrest he appeared on State TV in an exclusive interview with Blendi Fevziu. In the late 2000s he was sometimes seen travelling to Albania from Dubai to give interviews or publicise his books.
Ramiz Alia died on 7 October 2011 in Tirana from lung disease, shortly before his 86th birthday, according to a spokesman for President Bamir Topi.
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