Modern Albania

From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe

384 pages

May, 2015

ISBN: 9780814705117



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Fred C. Abrahams is a special advisor at Human Rights Watch and a writer who has worked for twenty years in areas marred by political crises and armed conflict, including the Balkans and Middle East.

All books by Fred C. Abrahams

In the early 1990s, Albania, arguably Europe’s most closed and repressive state, began a startling transition out of forty years of self-imposed Communist isolation. Albanians who were not allowed to practice religion, travel abroad, wear jeans, or read “decadent” Western literature began to devour the outside world. They opened cafés, companies, and newspapers. Previously banned rock music blared in the streets.

Modern Albania offers a vivid history of the Albanian Communist regime’s fall and the trials and tribulations that led the country to become the state it is today. The book provides an in-depth look at the Communists' last Politburo meetings and the first student revolts, the fall of the Stalinist regime, the outflows of refugees, the crash of the massive pyramid-loan schemes, the war in neighboring Kosovo, and Albania’s relationship with the United States. Fred Abrahams weaves together personal experience from more than twenty years of work in Albania, interviews with key Albanians and foreigners who played a role in the country’s politics since 1990—including former Politburo members, opposition leaders, intelligence agents, diplomats, and founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army—and a close examination of hundreds of previously secret government records from Albania and the United States. A rich, narratively-driven account, Modern Albania gives readers a front-row seat to the dramatic events of the last battle of Cold War Europe.


  • "The canon on modern Albanian political history in English is small but Fred Abraham's book is now a large contribution to it. Excellent and above all readable; anyone interested in contemporary Albanian and Balkan history should be grateful that he has committed his deep knowledge about the country, and above all its travails in the 1990s, to paper."

    —Tim Judah, author of Kosovo: War and Revenge

  • "[A]ssiduously researched, compulsively readable . . . Abrahams speaks the language, has read the documents, witnessed many of the key episodes for himself, and interviewed almost every player of significance. Albania is a country filled with wily, resourceful, worldly, funny, and fatalistic people, and with their many contributions Abrahams’s narrative is as darkly farcical as it is tragic."

    —Andrew Gumbel, Los Angeles Review of Books

  • "Abrahams has been afforded the opportunity to 'peer behind the curtain of a society that is for many outsiders opaque'. Yet it is his character portraits, which are reminiscent of both Ryszard Kapuscinski and John le Carre, which bring this richly woven work of narrative non-fiction to life." 

    —Will Nicoll, The Spectator

  • "In this intimate portrait of the country, he explains how the old regime--the last of the Eastern European communist regimes to fall--slowly crumbled and a democratic party, largely student-based, formed, faltered, and gave way to a transfigured communist party."

    —Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

  • "The book really shines when Abrahams presents the results of his scrupulous search for the few, brave souls who dared to raise protests against the communist regime."

    Transitions Online

  • “[Abraham’s] account is useful for a number of reasons. For example, it clearly encourages questions about external involvement, especially the West’s decision 1) to tolerate corruption, authoritarian policies and monopolization of power for the sake of regional short-term stability, and 2) to get rid of regimes once they stop serving their own interests.”

    Slavonic and East European Review