The Block vs.Albanians
Albania during communism was characterized by a great “gap” between the life in the block area (a priviledged area in the center of Tirana, where the dictator and the important personalities of the Communist Party lived) and the life of Albanian citizens dwelling in extreme poverty.
Albania was ranked among the 15 poorest countries in the world in terms of income per capita, and the crisis culminated in the years from 1982 to 1990, when 300.000 families consumed 0.5 kg meat per week, 500.000 families consumed 1 kg of butter per month and 600.000 families cooked in the bathroom due to lack of cooking space.
The queues for food and the authorization!
Everyone waited in queues for food, clothing or any other thing. Before buying a TV or a washing machine you had to obtain an authorization. Children’s toys were simple and were bought only for the New Year. This was the times when a soap from overseas was considered a major luxury, while those who lived in real luxury were the communist leaders, with riches not even dreamed by the simple citizen. People had to stand in queues to buy bread. If you did not go in time, you could find yourself without food.
Clothing and Fashion!
Albanians were seen as the people with the strangest outfits in the communist community. In other countries, the communist countries, the clothing was modern for that time, but in our country, we used special and standard clothing, regardless of age, place and social class where the person belonged to. That said Albania was the only country in the world where all the people dressed alike.
Until 1984, moustache, sunglasses and the small shoulder bag were prohibited as “foreign exhibition”. Boys had to cut their hair short. The beard that reminded you of the mullah Muslims, was forbidden. Young girls should not draw attention and jewellery was rare. Girls’ skirts had to be long enough to cover the knee but not too long, while the coat was a very expensive commodity for that time and was bought only 1 or 2 times in life.
Economy and private property
The Communist Party in power administered the country’s economy through a series of “Five Year” plans. All means of production were controlled by the state, agriculture was completely collectivized and the industry became popular property and the private enterprise was strictly prohibited.
In addition, the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Albania prohibited the government to ask for assistance from outside, to accept any kind of debt or allow foreign investments.
The only private property in communism was the bicycle, everything else belonged to the “people”. The only vehicles that could be seen around in those years were those of public transport, buses, the enterprise machines etc. Public transport was mostly managed by trains. Everyone travelled by trains, which were crowded by travellers. The cars were very rare. With a bit of luck, a girl could get in a car on her wedding day.
At that time, domestic poultry was also considered private property. In the ’80s it was forbidden to keep chickens, ducks and geese, and also turkeys, which were purchased only once a year, for the New Year’s Eve. In this way, the party banned Albanians to sell eggs and reproduce chickens. These strict measures were not welcomed, taking into account that the economy was in decline.
At that time, the block was a forbidden fruit for Albanians, where you could not enter if you were not a resident. There lived only members of the Political Bureau, who were considered the elite of the country and their security was very important for the nation. The most beautiful villa on the block was undoubtedly that of Enver Hoxha.
The Hoxha family lived in the midst of luxury and riches. Besides the servants, the guards who kept the house under rigorous security measures, they did not spare themselves the vacation homes in Vlora, Pogradec or Durres. In the book of memoires that the dictator published, we looked with surprise at the Hoxha family pictures. the photos reflected a life quite different from ours, with expensive clothes, jeans so much desired by the Albanians, or beautiful games.