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Profile: Mehmet Shehu
Mehmet Shehu was a participant or observer in the following events:
After World War II, military cooperation between Albania and Yugoslavia continues. Yugoslavia helps Albania support 42,000 military personnel in 1947. In April, the Deputy Political Director of the military’s Political Directorate, Pellumb Dishnica, writes a memorandum on the need to coordinate defense with Yugoslavia and create air force, tank, and naval units on a joint basis, because Albania is a small country. In his Memorandum on the Albanian Armed Forces in the Post-War Period, Dishnica notes that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mehmet Shehu is against the plan, arguing that Albania could lose military independence, Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha could lose his position as commander in chief, and the Soviet Union might cut off support. [Kola, 2003, pp. 79-80]
After World War II, both the Albanians and the Yugoslavs seek military aid from the USSR. Later, Hoxha says military regulations are changed too frequently, allegedly a Yugoslav effort to weaken the Albanian military. Therefore Hoxha supports the appointment of Mehmet Shehu, who led a division during the War and is studying in the USSR, as Chief of the General Staff. Nako Spiru recommends him and Koci Xoxe and Pandi Kristo do not oppose the appointment. (Decades later, when he recounts this, Hoxha states that Shehu was part of a multiple foreign plot to assassinate him.) Soviet advisers are brought in, and Hoxha says the Yugoslavs try to cause friction between the Albanians and Soviets. At a meeting in Belgrade, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo, Political Director of the Yugoslav military, tells Mehmet Shehu and Kristo Themelko, Director of the Political Directory of the Albanian military, that only Yugoslav military doctrine is relevant in the Balkans and Europe. In July Vukmanovic-Tempo and Koca Popovic, Chief of the Yugoslav General Staff, come to Albania and, according to Themelko, say that their two militaries should be unified, as the economies are being unified, and that Yugoslavia will fund the Albanian military. Shehu tells Hoxha that he did not hear these comments. Hoxha says he is “shocked” to hear this and disagrees. Hoxha says that Savo Zlatic confirms in November 1947 that the Yugoslavs do want military unification. [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 427 - 435]
Entity Tags: Koci Xoxe, Albania, Koca Popovic, Kristo Themelko, Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, Pandi Kristo, Nako Spiru, Yugoslavia, Savo Zlatic, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
In a letter dated January 26, 1948, and delivered by Yugoslav General Milan Kupresanin, Tito tells Albanian leader Enver Hoxha that Greece, aided by the British and Americans, is about to invade Albania, so Yugoslavia wants to quietly station a division and supporting soldiers in the Korca region. Academic Paulin Kola will later claim that Albania proposes that the Albanian and Yugoslav soldiers should be under a unified command, as a step towards military unification. In his memoir, The Titoites, Hoxha will say that he tells Kupresanin that the request has to be discussed by the leadership and that he personally is against it. Kristo Themelko and Chief of the Albanian General Staff Beqir Balluku, who replaced Hoxha ally Mehmet Shehu, previously met with Tito and said Albania would accept the military assistance. Kupresanin comes with a team to survey the area. Hoxha replies that Albania can defend itself, the Greek government forces are wrapped up in an offensive against the Greek Democratic Army, the plan should not be hidden from the Albanian public, and that hosting the division would destabilize the region. Hoxha says to Kupresanin that “the worst thing would be if, from such a precipitate action, enemies or friends were to accuse us that Albania has been occupied by the Yugoslav troops!” and says Kupresanin briefly blanched. Xoci Xoxe is also at the meeting and supports the Yugoslav request, and says action should be taken quickly. Kupresanin is insulted when Hoxha says Yugoslavia should reinforce its own border with Greece if war is so imminent. Privately, Hoxha believes that “the urgent dispatch of Yugoslav to our territory would serve as an open blackmail to ensure that matters in the [Eighth] Plenum would go in the way that suited the Yugoslavs.” In a report to the Tirana party organization on October 4, 1948, Hoxha will say Yugoslavia was seeking to create “a phobia of imminent war” and divide Albania from the Soviets by “the stationing of a Yugoslav division in Korca and the dispatch of other divisions.” Since he cannot stop the Plenum from being held in February, he tries to stop the division from being approved, by requesting advice from the Soviets. The Soviet government subsequently says it does not expect a Greek invasion and that it agrees with Hoxha. In With Stalin, Hoxha will say that Stalin will tell him in spring 1949 that the USSR was not aware of the situation, though Yugoslavia claimed to be acting with Soviet approval.
Yugoslav Accounts - Subsequent memoirs by Yugoslav leaders Milovan Djilas, Edvard Kardelj, and Vladimir Dedjier will say that Albania was already hosting a Yugoslav air force regiment, and that Yugoslavia wanted to station two army divisions, at Albania’s request. Dedjier says that Stalin wanted Hoxha to make the request, and Jon Holliday will later outline several interpretations, based on the various possibly inaccurate accounts.
The Yugoslav Reaction - According to Hoxha’s report to the Tirana party organization, after Albania rejects the division, the Yugoslav envoy, presumably Kupresanin, calls for reorganization of the Albanian military, new roads and bridges to accommodate Yugoslav tanks, stringing new telegraph wires, and the mobilization of 10,000 soldiers and mules for transport, over two to three months. The Yugoslav also says Albania should tell the Soviets that it wants the Yugoslav division and ask why the Soviets oppose it. He asserts that Albania would only be able to defend itself for 10 days, while it would take 15 days for Yugoslav forces to reach southern Albania, and the UN would get involved, preventing Yugoslav intervention, which would be Hoxha’s fault. Albania agrees to make improvements and mobilize the soldiers and mules, on Yugoslav credits. Hoxha says the Yugoslavs are working through Kristo Themelko, who two or three times tells the Political Bureau that Albania needs to unify with Yugoslavia to carry out these measures. After March 30, Yugoslavia will reduce its involvement with Albania after a critical letter from the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 763 - 767; Hoxha, 1979, pp. 92-93; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 439-446; Halliday and Hoxha, 1986, pp. 106-108; Kola, 2003, pp. 93]
Entity Tags: Milovan Djilas, Paulin Kola, Greece, Milan Kupresanin, Mehmet Shehu, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Soviet Communist Party, Josip Broz Tito, Kristo Themelko, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, United Nations, Albania, Beqir Balluku, Eduard Kardelj, Enver Hoxha, Yugoslavia, Jon Halliday, United States of America, Vladimir Dedijer, Greek Democratic Army
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
At the Eighth Plenum of the Communist Party of Albania’s Central Committee, Yugoslavia’s criticism of the CPA and the Yugoslav plan to accelerate unification are endorsed. Koci Xoxe, as interior minister and the CPA’s organizational secretary, uses his power to threaten, remove, or arrest people. Mehmet Shehu is barred from the meeting. In an unusual turn, there is no report to the Plenum, other than what Prime Minister and CPA General Secretary Enver Hoxha will call “a so-called conclusion of a meeting of the Political Bureau,” presented by Xoxe. According to Hoxha, Xoxe conspires with Xhoxhi Blushi, Nesti Kerenxhi, Pellumb Dishnica, Tahir Kadare, Gjin Marku, and others, who turn the meeting from questions of substance to reviewing alleged misconduct by the recently deceased Economy Minister Nako Spiru and others. Hoxha does accept some of the criticisms of Spiru, Liri Belishova (Spiru’s wife), and Shehu; many years later Belishova and later Shehu will be charged with treason. At the Plenum, it is implied that Hoxha allowed Spiru to act. Xoxe and Pandi Kristo urge the Plenum to expand its criticism of the leadership, but Hoxha will later say his clean record prevented attack, and he makes few comments. According to Hoxha, Xoxe comes close to accusing him of leading a faction with Spiru. Nonetheless, Hoxha later says that he thinks the majority in the CPA and Albania do not approve of the Plenum’s conclusions. The Political Bureau is enlarged. A committee is formed to draft a resolution to be approved at a later Plenum.
Results of the Plenum - According to the official party history, Xoxe uses intimidation and surveillance to control the party and plans to execute opponents, weakens mass organizations such as the unions, and wants to abolish the Communist Youth Organization, formerly headed by Spiru. Yugoslav advisers become unquestionable. The Co-ordination Commission becomes “almost a second government,” and joint companies come under Yugoslav control. Fraternization is encouraged to make unification look like a popular demand. Hoxha prevents Xoxe from expelling all Soviet advisers, merging the Albanian military with the Yugoslav military, and unifying the countries. Subsequently Savo Zlatic, Xoxe, Kristo, and Themelko will say the Soviet advisers are generally no longer needed, but Hoxha, Hysni Kapo, and Gogo Nushi are able to keep them in the country. Yugoslavia wants Albania to request unification, and the Political Bureau decides to ask for clarification from Yugoslavia and the USSR leadership.
Varying Accounts - According to Albanian academic Paulin Kola, Hoxha will endorse federation at a Political Bureau meeting on March 14 and say that was the plan from the beginning, and is ready for formal announcement. Kola will portray both Hoxha and Xoxe as pro-Yugoslav and pro-Soviet. [PLA, 1971, pp. 314-317; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 446-469; Kola, 2003, pp. 92]
Entity Tags: Nako Spiru, Nesti Kerenxhi, Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, Liri Belishova, Kristo Themelko, Pandi Kristo, Hysni Kapo, Koci Xoxe, Party of Labor of Albania, Paulin Kola, Pellumb Dishnica, Yugoslavia, Albania, Albanian Communist Youth Organization, Xhoxhi Blushi, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Gogo Nushi, Savo Zlatic, Tahir Kadare, Gjin Marku
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
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