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Albania struggles to deal with Communist past

Since the collapse of Communist rule in Eastern Europe in 1989, the countries involved have explored different ways of dealing with the past. Albania took a different path to many, something which is still affecting it today, says the BBC's Iain MacInnes.

Jani Plaku
Jani Plaku says he is not concerned with revenge

"All my life, since I was a child I have been searching for information about my father. I wanted to know who my father was."

We met Jani Plaku on the outskirts of Tirana, where he led us to a site, surrounded by police tape.

It was the latest part of his search for information about his father - the bodies of 19 people, buried where barracks once stood.

Barracks 313, which had once been a communications post during communist rule in Albania, is now revealing the secrets of its past.

Mr Plaku's father had been an expert in oil exploration, but the communist authorities believed he was working against the government, and charged him with sabotage.

Following a trial, where he protested his innocence, he was executed in 1976.

Mr Plaku had been directed to the site by one of those responsible for the execution, whom he met after years of frantic effort looking for information on his father's fate.

Almost 20 years after the fall of communism in Albania, there are many who are still seeking information about loved ones who went missing under the regime.

Lost documents

We met Ramiz Alia, the former leader of the Communist Party of Albania and, later, the first president of the post-communist Republic of Albania.

Ramiz Alia, former President of Albania
I am sorry and I consider it a bad thing that there have been people who have become victims of our carelessness, our severe actions
Ramiz Alia
Former Albanian president

Enver Hoxha, who led Albania from World War II until his death in 1985, designated Mr Alia as his successor as party leader.

Mr Alia, who remained in power until 1992, has some regrets about his time in charge.

"I am sorry and I consider it a bad thing that there have been people who have become victims of our carelessness, our severe actions, or... the mistakes or our institutions, like the secret police," he says.

"There have been such cases. I am sorry for that, absolutely I am sorry, and I think that there should be justice for them," he adds.

It is believed that almost 6,000 people were executed under communist rule, but many of the documents relating to those executions have been destroyed or lost.

Possibly the final source of information on what happened - those who were actually involved - are getting increasingly old, or are already dead.

'Enjoying vengeance'

The discovery of the mass grave at Barracks 313 has prompted Prime Minister Sali Berisha's government to set up a task force to investigate the missing.

Sali Berisha
Sali Berisha's government has set up a task force to investigate the missing

"I don't think that a government can continue not doing anything to find the bones of thousands and thousands of citizens who were executed only because they had the courage to protect the same values for which the citizens of the free world fight," Mr Berisha says.

Mr Alia, however, believes that what happened in the past is best left there.

"I think that it is more important for Albania not to deal with the past, but with the present," he explains.

"Albania is suffering a harsh economic and political crisis. It's poor, there is a political crisis," he adds. "It is not a crisis for political ideologies but a crisis for who can oust whom from power."

Back at Barracks 313, where his father's remains have not been found, Mr Plaku says he is not concerned with political ideologies or even gaining revenge for what happened.

"I do not need to see blood to feel happy. I am already enjoying my vengeance," he says.

"It's the time in which we are living. You are part of my vengeance. This interview is my vengeance."



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