The Question of the Balkan Federation

Nexhmije Hoxha

During the turbulent and suspicious situation that was created after Nako Spiru’s suicide, the Soviets decided to enter the scene. Dimitrov, a month after Nako’s tragic act and in the wave of Tito’s charges and threats, invited Enver Hoxha to lead a delegation, on a visit to Bulgaria. In my opinion, this invitation was not given without first obtaining Stalin’s approval. Enver describes in detail this official and friendly visit and his impressions on the meetings with the great Dimitrov. He also describes all the hassles and the brutal interventions of Koci Xoxe and of the Yugoslav agitations. In the Fellowship and Collaboration Treaty that was signed between Dimitrov and Enver, it stated that Yugoslavia’s role should be mentioned. As it is now known, this Treaty was not revealed, even after the aggravation of the relations between Albania and Soviet Union and with the countries having people’s democracy, until after 1960.

In a particular case, and I do not quite remember if it was on our way to, or coming back from a meeting, Tito invited Enver and me to pay a visit to his house in Dedinia. He was very friendly. After having cocktails, he suggested that we all watch a movie. I sat between Enver and Tito while Alexander Rankovich sat behind us. At that time, Tito was not yet married to Jovanka. He had divorced his ex-partisan wife and mother of his two sons, Marko and one other, who, in the Second World War, while participating in the actions of the Red Army, was injured, and had lost an arm. We met him when he took part in the Second Congress of our youth that was held in Tirana in a large military building, behind the main University building.

<> This was the second time that I had met Tito. The first time was in Beograd in 1946, when I was there with a delegation, which participated in the Congress of their Front. Joseph Broz Tito invited me separately, as Enver Hoxha’s wife, one afternoon to the White Palace. Koca Popovich and Djilas were also there. I was accompanied by the ad interim envoy from our embassy in Beograd, the good comrade, Vasil Konomi, who, unfortunately, had an early death. At that time, I was young, timid and had no experience with these high-level meetings. However, I left the visit with a somewhat bad impression, particularly due to a certain lack of seriousness on their parts. This was especially true of Koca Popovich who went so far with his compliments about my beauty and youth, and who ‘embarrassed’ me a lot. Vasil told me that everyone in Beograd knew of K. Popovich’s mundane behaviour, which seemed to stem from his aristocratic family background.

After the visit to Bulgaria and the signing of the Treaty by the two countries, which of course was done with Stalin’s approval, we read in Milovan Djilas’ memories about the other steps taken by Stalin against Albania.

In his book, Djilas writes that on the 9th of January, 1948, he was invited by Stalin to give him some explanations. Stalin got down to the ‘nitty-gritty’ by saying: ‘So the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania are committing suicide!’ (Certainly he was speaking about Nako Spiru). Djilas also writes that as Stalin had told him, in this very meeting, that Yugoslavia could engulf Albania and made his meaning clearer by miming this statement with the gesture of his fingers in front of his mouth.

Djilas was intelligent and cultured and he knew very well that Stalin’s words should often be carefully analyzed. Stalin made his declarations so synthesized that, when the press commented on them, diplomats and other politicians had to carefully study them in order to decode their real meaning. Thus, Djilas himself states that Stalin’s words might be a “trap” for Yugoslavia. In my opinion it was a known fact that the Soviet Union, and Stalin himself, were suspicious of the plans of the Yugoslavian leadership and of Tito, on the extension of their influence throughout the Balkans.

Djilas makes a dramatic description of Stalin’s criticism towards Dimitrov regarding an article that he had written for the newspaper “Pravda” about the Balkan Federation, in which he proposed that Romania should be a part of it. Djilas also describes how the hero of the famous Leipzig Lawsuit blushed, when he bravely faced Goering. Dimitrov was justified in blushing, because he was the key figure in the leadership of the Comintern and it wasn’t easy for him to have his name tarnished in front of the others. I think, or more precisely, I guess, that this criticism could not be unknown to Dimitrov and that it was made on purpose for the Yugoslavs. There is a French saying: ‘Aux bons entendeurs, salut!’ ‘Let’s hear those who have ears’. Dimitrov was close to Stalin, he was his friend and admirer, and I do not think that he could make political moves for the future, such as for the Balkan Federation, without prior consultations with Stalin.

We, the Albanians, also knew, but only in December 1947, when we went to Sofia, that Stalin agreed to a Balkan Federation, and Enver and all of us without doubt, imagined that this would be under Dimitrov’s leadership. By the end of 1947 and early 1948, the Soviets were noticing that Yugoslavia and Tito were moving away from Soviet influence. Stalin organized a scene in front of Djilas’ eyes, where he requested a unification of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in the Federation, a fact that Tito could never accept, because he could not bear having Dimitrov as a leader. The most immediate and easier action of interest for him was the unification, or better still, putting forward the proposal for the annexation of Albania by Yugoslavia. In this way he would ‘solve’ the Kosovo issue along with the situation of the other Albanian territories in Yugoslavia, by not giving up Kosovo and the other regions, but by taking over the territory of the Albanian State. Nevertheless, Stalin said ‘No, before this comes the union with Bulgaria and then, afterwards with Albania!’

This change was made within a month, from December to January! It is clear that Stalin gave up the idea of a Balkan Federation in spite of Yugoslavia and Tito’s ambitions. This was buried in a theatrical play on the spot and was never mentioned again. When Stalin said to Djilas: ‘engulf Albania, yes, yes engulf it...’ Djilas was right to suspect that this was a “trap”.

The 8th Party Plenum was held in February, and, at that time, measures were taken against those who opposed the Yugoslavian line. Then began the preparations for the 1st Party Congress, in which the Yugoslavs and Koci Xoxe were planning to finally succeed in the segregating of Enver Hoxha as General Secretary and the annexation of Albania. However, they accomplished neither of the two. The Yugoslav leadership with Tito at its head, excited at the possibility of putting Albania under their feet, prepared to send two military divisions to the Albanian/Greek border because there was civil war in Greece, which ostensibly threatened Albania. Enver Hoxha reported this to Stalin. He (Stalin), was enraged by this initiative that even went as far as to complicate the relations between the Soviet Union and Great Britain, with whom he had signed an agreement, at the Yalta Conference, defining the areas of influence in the Balkan and elsewhere.

We could say that this was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and the relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were greatly aggravated. Then came the letters that Stalin and Molotov had sent to Tito (in March, May 1948). Later on, in June, the Information Bureau resolution was made public. Albania is rescued.

Nexhmije Hoxha, ‘My Life with Enver’, Memoirs 1, “Lira”, Tirana, 1998. Copyright: The Author. Translated from the Albanian.

Click here to return to the April 2020 index.