From Stalin to Mao: Albania and the Socialist World


CoverOn 17th January, the Centre for the Study of Internationalism and the Rethinking Modern Europe seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research will host Dr Elidor Mëhilli, Assistant Professor of History at Hunter College of the City University of New York, to launch his book, From Stalin to Mao: Albania and the Socialist World.

The evening will see Elidor introduce his book with a short lecture, followed by discussion led by Dr Alessandro Iandolo (University of Oxford) and Dr Julia Lovell (Birkbeck). This will be followed by a drinks reception. The event is free and open to all, however registration is required through Eventbrite.

Elidor has produced a groundbreaking history of communist Albania that illuminates one of Europe’s longest but least understood dictatorships. From Stalin to Mao, which is informed throughout by his unprecedented access to previously restricted archives, captures the powerful globalism of post-1945 socialism, as well as the unintended consequences of cross-border exchanges from the Mediterranean to East Asia.

After a decade of vigorous borrowing from the Soviet Union―advisers, factories, school textbooks, urban plans―Albania’s party clique switched allegiance to China during the 1960s Sino-Soviet conflict, seeing in Mao’s patronage an opportunity to keep Stalinism alive. Mëhilli shows how socialism created a shared transnational material and mental culture―still evident today around Eurasia―but it failed to generate political unity. Combining an analysis of ideology with a sharp sense of geopolitics, he brings into view Fascist Italy’s involvement in Albania, then explores the country’s Eastern bloc entanglements, the profound fascination with the Soviets, and the contradictions of the dramatic anti-Soviet turn. Richly illustrated with never-before-published photographs, From Stalin to Mao draws on a wealth of Albanian, Russian, German, British, Italian, Czech, and American archival sources, in addition to fiction, interviews, and memoirs. Mëhilli’s fresh perspective on the Soviet-Chinese battle for the soul of revolution in the global Cold War also illuminates the paradoxes of state planning in the twentieth century.

“For the first time, a source-based history of Communist Albania, the little eastern European country that defied, first, its Yugoslav neighbours, then its Soviet sponsors, and finally its Chinese protectors, only in order to build, by its own efforts, one of the world’s most sectarian and cruel Stalinist dictatorships. It is a remarkable tale, well told in this book.” – OA Westad, Harvard University, author of The Cold War.