(b. Gjirokaster, 16 Oct. 1908; d. Tirana, 11 Apr. 1985)
(Albanian; Leader 1946–85) Hoxha was born into a Muslim landowning family of the Tosk clan. He studied and resided in France from 1930 to 1936, joining the French Communist Party. He then returned to Albania and in 1941 became provisional secretary-general of the Albanian Labour Party, as the Communist party was correctly known. The next year a Communist resistance movement, the Albanian National Liberation Movement, was formed with the help of Tito's Yugoslav partisans. Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu were its leaders. At the end of 1944, the Communists were in control of all Albania's main towns and declared Albania a People's Republic in 1946, having eliminated their political rivals. Hoxha was Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, and head of the party. With particular brutality, his regime imposed a Stalinist one-party system with collectivization of agriculture, nationalization of industry, and suppression of both the Islamic and Christian religions. Thereafter Hoxha stood firmly against the slightest modification of the system.
In 1948 Hoxha fiercely supported Stalin when he broke with Tito. This greatly strengthened his position, since he was able to use Soviet support to destroy his enemies within the ALP. Relations with the Soviet Union soured after 1956 when Khrushchev denounced Stalin at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU and in 1961 Albania was excluded from Comecon and the Warsaw Pact. At the end of the 1960s Albania drew close to China. This relationship deteriorated in the 1970s when Hoxha criticized China's accommodation with his arch-enemy, the United States. In 1978 the Chinese government abruptly broke off relations with Albania. Hoxha's change in foreign policy broadly coincided with purges of his rivals at home. He eliminated different alleged factions in 1973, 1974, 1975, and in 1982. In December 1981 Mehmet Shehu committed suicide in mysterious circumstances after Hoxha had replaced him as his designated heir with Ramiz Alia. The next year Shehu's supporters were purged.
Hoxha died on 11 April 1985, having ruled for forty-one years—longer than any other Communist leader except North Korea's Kim II Sung. His road to socialism had failed long before. Economic growth had stopped in the mid-1970s and Albania was the poorest country in Europe.