The removal of communist-era statues gave the illusion of freedom but obscured how history still shapes the presentAlmost 30 years ago, I sat with my parents in front of the television and watched one of the last mass actions that marked the end of state socialism in Europe: the toppling of the statue of Enver Hoxha, the historic leader of the Albanian Communist party. Transfixed by the live images of tens of thousands of people taking turns to pull ropes, I saw the gigantic bronze figure of a man whose portrait still adorned my school walls tilt slightly left and then right, before losing its balance and collapsing to the ground. The statue was dragged into the main square of the capital Tirana, followed by chants of “Freedom”, “Democracy”, and “The police are with us”. The police were indeed with the protesters, but not out of sympathy for their cause. The Communist party, at that point still in power, had given them orders not to intervene. During the preceding weeks of protest, high-ranking officials had realised that a system that had lost legitimacy in the eyes of the majority could no longer demand their compliance. Foreign news channels celebrated the birth of freedom in what they called the last dictatorship of Europe. Continue reading...
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