By Dr. Jorgji Kote
The fall of the Berlin Wall found the then communist leadership of “continuity” unprepared, when it was going through festive jubilant moments, fanfares and blowing the trumpets of its propaganda. On the day the Wall was collapsing, the 72nd anniversary of the October Revolution and the 48th anniversary of the foundation of the Party had just been celebrated; meanwhile, preparations for the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the liberation of the Fatherland and 87th anniversary of Independence had just culminated. Ironically, on the day that the Wall had started to collapse, Cuban Foreign Minister was in Tirana!
The leadership of Tirana at that time, aimed, with its political actions and by distancing itself from the “stubborn language” of several years ago, to leave a false impression among the population that everything was business as usual. But, enthusiastic moments of immense joy shown in world screens, were seen by the majority of Albanians; their children had long found the trick to receive foreign channels, through the “tins” that were so much in demand during those years.
Contacts with abroad had also become more frequent. Berliners’ glorious manifestations in those heated days of November gave hope to Albanians for a new start. Meanwhile, in production lines and different institutions, the gloomy atmosphere and the shock that the fall of the Wall had caused could be felt. During those years, I used to work as an expert in the former Ministry of Foreign Commerce; there, I witnessed an unprecedented political shock of the regime. Tension rose, there were demands for a “day and night” mobilization at work to overcome the economic crisis that had engulfed the country for a while, by increasing production and export, but with what? With sand and sea salt, stones and gravel, lambs and kids, frogs and donkeys or trade forms of the 17th century? Through slogans, the regime was seeking to escape its historical responsibility and perhaps, come out clean out of this hopeless situation. Therefore, the leaders of that time gave the impression that the events in Berlin had nothing to do with Albania, because Albania was the only true and only socialist country in the world!
Meanwhile, taking advantage of a festive atmosphere, although it was artificial, they used to say that Albania continued its path of building true socialism “with its head high and hands full”! When in fact, the people had raised its hands and its stomach was empty. Economy was entirely asphyxiated. This is why it’s interesting, especially for the generation of 20 or 30 year olds who have not lived that period, but even for grown ups, to stop a little longer on the columns of that nauseous month for the regime, mainly referring to the pages of “Voice of the people”. We refer to VP, because all other newspapers, radio and the only state owned television loyally reflected “its spirit and lines”, due to the censorship of the ruling party on the media and the dogmatized press of that time.
VP on the Wall
In spite of the weight, intensity and epochal importance of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the following events, instead of reflecting it, the headlines of VP were busy with the victories and achievements of the masses under the leadership of the Labor Party of Albania! In those November days of 1989, VP and all other media and press, offered long triumphing articles about the National Conference of the Albanian Geology!!? An article dating on November 28, 1989 entitled “It was not communism that failed, but its deformation”, expressed the conviction on the justice of the party and communism as an ideology!!
The objection toward events in other eastern countries, was obvious even in the November 30 issue of the VP, with the bombastic headline “Unity is our strength, socialism is our path”! But, even the east German leader, Honeker, had claimed the same thing in the parade organized on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the creation of the GDR with Gorbachev on his side, but a month later, he saw himself and his regime defeated along with the Wall, which was masterminded by Khrushchev. It was clear that the propaganda orchestrated by the high leadership of that time was doing its best to shadow the international effects of the collapse of the Wall and this event would go without a lot of noise in Albania! What a political myopia! Everything could be found during those days in the Voice of the People and Albanian TV station, but news, although the most emblematic news in those days, weeks and years to follow was the Berlin Wall, its collapse and the wind of Change in the east! Meanwhile, 4-5 days before the collapse of the Wall, Albania was visited by deputy Prime Minister of GDR, Horst Zole, who signed with our authorities the Agreement for Economic and Technical Cooperation. In fact, this visit and the above mentioned Agreement, which was “dead before it was born”, occupied more room in media columns of that time than the events about the Berlin Wall during the period November-December 1989! In his interview for VP, asked about the political situation in East Berlin, he replied that nothing big was happening, as if he was coming from another planet! Meanwhile, expressing “his admiration for the achievements of the Albanian people, he expressed his conviction on the continuation of cooperation between GDR and Albania, until 2010!” See-seemed to say the Albanian propaganda of that time-an East German leader is saying that nothing big has happened there! But even Zole, resigned a week later along with other members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of GDR!
The Wall-A taboo
As it was the case with its reaction over the construction of the Wall in 1961, where the word Wall didn’t appear anywhere, but only “effective measures to protect the East German border”, even now, the word “Wall” or even worse, “the Collapse of the Wall” were a real TABOO. For the Albanian communist propaganda of 1989, although they claimed that the country was opening to the world and information, the Berlin Wall had never existed, therefore, there could not be a Wall which was collapsing! Therefore, the reader must search a lot in order to find, even once, in all the articles of that time the word WALL! Nowhere! But how did the daily newspaper of the Albanian Labor Party, “Voice of the People” and the communist propaganda of that time reflect the great event of the Wall? On November 11, 1989, VP offers a telegraphic announcement over the approval of the GDR’s government of “New rules for the East German citizens, who could travel to West Berlin and then stay there without visas”. As it’s well known, it was the articulation of this Decision two days prior to this in a confused press conference, that had led numerous crowds from both sides of Berlin to head toward the Brandenburg Gates and start the major historical process of the collapse of the Wall! The announcement continues by saying that immediately after this, Chancellor Kohl had suspended his visit to Poland and had gone to Berlin and then to Bonn, where he had urgently summoned the government cabinet!
This historical news didn’t even occupy 10 dry lines in an almost invisible spot of page 4 of VP! It’s pointless to talk about comments! The logic of the communist propaganda was: “Why should we comment on this? It has nothing to do with us. It’s only a decision issued by GDR and that is it! Meanwhile, on November 12, another telegraphic announcement of VP talks about a telephone conversation of the new leader of GDR, E. Krenz with H. Kohl. But, even this announcement only mentioned the fact that Krenz told Kohl that this was not unification, but merely an improvement of relations between the two countries, as two sovereign countries! That’s it! A dry announcement is also issued on November 29, 1989 for the famous 10 point Plan of Helmut Kohl, where he outlined the historical platform of the German reunification. But, the VP stressed the objections expressed by his counterparts. The same short length was also dedicated to the announcements over the resignation of the Political Bureau of GDR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and a slightly longer article on the fall of Ceausescu in December. Meanwhile, on December 22, 1989, a day after the ceremony of the official opening of the Brandenburg Gates, over the now collapsed Wall, with the participation of the leaders of both Germanies, VP only offers a telegraphic announcement under the column “in other news”. One had to be more attentive and have more information from other sources in order to “read between the lines” and understand that the democratic miracle of the world had happened in Berlin and it was not just the case of the opening of gates! Of course, the communist leadership of that time didn’t have the will and political and intellectual capacities to make the change that had brought the collapse of the Walls and divisions of the Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain. That mission would be fulfilled, in spite of the numerous difficulties, progressive and democratic forces, which came out to destroy the Walls of Tirana, a year after that of Berlin.
*The author is a notable publicist in Albania and a writer. He’s a career diplomat and currently works as a diplomatic adviser in the Albanian embassy in Brussels