The Making of the Socialist Martyr: Pjetër Llesh Doda and White Roads

By Konstantinos Giakoumis, Christopher Lockwood, Trudy Anderson

In this paper we suggest that, in its Albanian variant, communism developed as a religious isomorpheme. In doing so, we by no means intend to imply that Enver Hoxha was himself a founder of religion. His relationship to religions was, even if pragmatic at times, variously distant, antagonistic or hostile. He was well-aware of Lenin’s hatred and scorn towards religious socialists and his attempts to eliminate them, and, in fact, shared such views. In a speech entitled “Study Marxist-Leninist Theory, Linking it Closely with Revolutionary Practice” delivered at a meeting commemorating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the V.I. Lenin Party school in November 8, 1970, Enver Hoxha acknowledged that:

We hated religion with all the power of our reason, because the revolutionary practice of our people had clearly brought to light the profoundly reactionary and anti-popular role of religious doctrines, which supported the feudal-bourgeoisie of the country and the foreigners who oppressed us. The centuries of never-ceasing liberation struggles had made our people a revolutionary people. They could not conceive either their existence as a people or the positive changes in their social life otherwise than by way of war and revolution. Their uprisings have always had a pronounced anti-imperialist, anti-feudal, anti-bourgeois and anti-religious character, of course, we cannot yet speak of inspiration or guidance from the philosophy of Marx, which became properly crystallized among us only after the founding of the Party. (Hoxha 1982: 816)

Indeed, by 1970 such hatred had translated into concrete flesh-and-bones actions against religion. Under the Marxist-Leninist ideology on religion, Enver Hoxha adopted radical Maoist approaches (cf. Hoxha 1982: 94-113) in dealing with religion so that in the course of 1966-1967 a systematic effort to deconstruct all religious customs and monuments, as remnants of backwardness in the country, was undertaken. All religious activities were therefore banned (Hoxha 1982: 103-13; cf. Article 55 of the 1976 Constitution of Albania) and Albania proclaimed itself the world's first atheist state (Article 37 of the 1976 Constitution). After 1967, the entire arsenal of communist arts was mobilized by Enver Hoxha in a conscious and concentrated effort to discredit religion and construct a communist mythology of religion. Alongside other artistic media, cinematography was an important ideological weapon with two dominant communist myths on Christianity being manifest in Albanian communist cinematography. The first myth represents Christianity as a relic of backwardness and Christian functionaries as reactionary elements who impede the development of “the new man of socialism” (e.g. Dh. Anagnosti, Komisari i Dritës, 1967; and Dh. Anagnosti, Përalla nga e Kaluara, 1987). The second myth portrays Christian dignitaries as agents of foreign states coveting Albania’s territorial integrity (e.g. M. Fejzo, Mesonjëtorja, 1979). Within this ideological framework, it is understandable why the communist regime in Albania would actively work towards the eradication of all religious institutions and symbols.

Surprisingly, however, rather than effacing everything resembling religion, the communist state effectively made itself a religious isomorpheme retaining the form, structure and typology of Christian spiritual experiences in particular, thereby crossing over rigid ideological barriers (Giakoumis 2013; Giakoumis 2014; Giakoumis and Lockwood 2015). It seems that, as devoid from religious influences as they could possibly be, Albanian communist leaders nevertheless understood the liminality of religious manifestations and used them pragmatically from the outset to suit their own ends. Albania’s communist leaders studied religious beliefs meticulously until at least 1967 (Hoxha 1982: 103-13). Their studies led to simulating religious rituals with a socialist norm and content (Giakoumis 2013; Giakoumis2014). The retention of religious norms, forms, structures and functions by Albania’s communist regime extended to the entire spectrum of people’s and institutions’ daily and festive life; to this end all weapons in the arsenal of communist aesthetics were utilized. The case study considered in this paper is only one of the numerous examples from the realm of communist aesthetics that can be provided. It fits into the context of the Albanian communist regime’s attempt to replace the veneration of religious figures (saints for Christians or babas for Bektashi Muslims) with newly-made heroes of socialist labor.

This was certainly not the only case of a socialist labor hero made in Albania. To give but a few comparable examples, we shall mention here Shkurte Pal Vata and Adem Reka (Giakoumis 2014).

vata memorialShkurte Vata, a member of the youth ‘brigade’ of Dukagjin, was a fifteen-year-old teenager from the village of Pecaj (Dukagjin region) who was sent, shortly after February 1967 (Albania’s Cultural Revolution), to ‘voluntarily’ work on the construction of a railway between Rogozhina and Fier. While there she was seriously injured in a landslide and passed away in November of 1967. The post-mortem utilization of the communist communications arsenal involving her father, Pal Vata, and Enver Hoxha, aimed to turn her into a martyr and cover up the child labor’s sweatshop scandal: books, essays, plays and verses were written, sketches were made (as there was no photograph of her), songs were composed, lapidary statues were carved in her honor. She was even posthumously proclaimed a party member while the place where she was fatally injured was marked with a memorial and a statue. Enver Hoxha ordered that trains crossing the location sound their horn as a sign of respect and even himself paid a visit to the spot to leave a bouquet of flowers at her memorial on June 28, 1968 (Giakoumis 2013; Giakoumis 2014).

adem rekaAdem Reka (1928-1966) was a dock worker in the harbor of Durrës who died on November 17, 1966 in the course of a violent windstorm while attempting to secure a loading crane vessel that later acquired his name. In 1966 a group of soldiers were asked to march from Tirana’s countryside to the harbour of Durrës and back again loaded with sacks of stone in some sort of ‘penitential’ pilgrimage. In the years following 1966 an untold number of visitors amassed from all over Albania to the port of Durrës in order to pay homage to Adem Reka’s room. In 1967, Pal Vata, the father of the aforementioned Shkurte Vata, was appointed as a guide to the spot where Adem Reka fell; thereby enhancing the blood and sweat dyad in the communist war and work symbolism (Giakoumis 2013; Giakoumis 2014).

Part 1: The Film's Background
The film White Roads (Rrugë të Bardha) presents a cinematographic version of the story of Pjetër Llesh Doda (Hapësira 2009). In view that the filmic version of his story is rather different to the protagonist’ real life story, it is essential to look at each of them separately. In real life Pjetër Llesh Doda was a telephone technician who lived in the village of Domgjon, Mirditë in Northern Albania. Contrary to the filmic romance, Pjetër Llesh Doda was married and a father of five children, whom he left as orphans upon his death on New Year’s Eve of 1966 at the age of 29. On the morning of December 31, 1966 Pjetër Llesh Doda, who was the sole breadwinner of his poor family, received a call that the telephone line to Kukës had suffered a breakdown. His wife Liza later reported that: “… while he was getting dressed he told me to prepare the table and have the New Year’s meal, because he was to be late” (Dervishi 2009). The eldest of his sons, Zef Lleshi, accompanied his father to the end of the village and was therefore the last to see him before he embarked upon his ill-fated journey to repair the telephone lines.

Pjetër Llesh Doda, however, never returned home. A week after his disappearance agents from the Sigurimi—Albania’s fearsome Secret Security Service—visited his family and threatened to arrest them, as they suspected that Doda had fled to Yugoslavia. It was only a week after the visit by the Sigurimi agents that rescue teams began searching for him along the path of the telephone cable lines towards Kukës. His body, frozen in the snow—hence preserved in good condition—was discovered by shepherds in the region of Kolsh (Kukës) as many as five weeks after his disappearance with the melting of snow drifts in early February of 1967.

white roadsThe communist state at the time did not waste any opportunity in proclaiming a socialist labor martyr of Pjetër Llesh Doda. His funeral was magnificent with Enver Hoxha himself sending presents from Tirana, while Domgjon’s cooperative paid for the completion of Pjetër Llesh Doda’s home, which was still under construction when he died. Soon after his death, his wife Liza, by way of an order from high Party officials, was appointed as a telephone operator, a position which she held until 1994. The institution of the socialist hero / martyr was initially introduced in the formative years if the Bolshevik movement and intensified after World War II in both USSR and Yugoslavia (Perica 2011: 55; Kameda: 2013); the Albanian post-World-War-II variant of the hero / martyr of the socialist labor observed here seems to combine the element of life-sacrifice of the older model with features of self-sacrifice to achieve higher productivity results of socialist heroes termed as “Stakhanovism” (Siegelbawm 1990).

The film was produced in 1973 in Bajram Çurri and Fushë Arrëz. The role of “Dedë” (Pjetër Llesh Doda) was played by Rikard Ljarja, while the role of Liza (her name was Albanianized to Zana in the film) was filled by Elida Cangonji. Contrary to the real life of the protagonist, in the film he is presented as having a romance with a telephone operator, Zana, and it was her zeal towards completion of her duty as a telephone operator that made her push “Dedë” to leave and fix the telephone lines. The film presents the entire community of workers as worrying about the fate of Deda, who was eventually found by workers of a geological survey hanging on the telephone pole after having successfully accomplished his duty.

white roadsPart 2: Parallels of Redemptive Sacrifice between Christianity and the Film
The literal and historical meaning of the word “martyr” is not, as it is primarily understood today, to die for some cause or belief, but rather “to witness” to that cause or belief by one's life and actions. In this more historical sense then, the essence of martyrdom is to bear witness to a truth of greater value than the individual by means of the content of one's life. However, because the martyr's cause was something which often times constituted a value which was often thought to transcend mere human existence, the idea of the martyr began to encompass how the believer came to confront the reality of his or her own death when it came to threaten or infringe upon the ideal or cause. One major feature of the concept of martyr has always therefore been to demonstrate a truth which transcends not only the needs of the individual, but also his or her natural reflexes for self-preservation and happiness in favor of the greater value of the martyric cause. In conformity to the idea, Pjetër Llesh Doda, this film's hero, is depicted as the embodiment of the socialist worker's ideal of redemptive sacrifice for the sake of the community-nation. In this light the personal needs of the individual, or in this case the hero, are placed on the sacrificial altar of the needs and happiness of the community.

By utilizing the literal and symbolic metaphor of the telephone network, the film presents the hero's primary role and mission as a kind of linking together of the community at the expense of his own satisfaction and happiness—though this does not involve dying until the end of the film. It is no accident then, that in the film's opening scenes the audience is provided with the knowledge that our hero's work is his first and greatest love. In light of this, he has little or no time for romance or the fulfillment of his other personal needs—though he does in fact possess such human and personal needs and struggles to attain them in so far as he is able. However, in contradiction to such personal needs, and as the film progresses towards its final climax, our hero prefers instead to continue undaunted in his mission. In this way he is lead like a sacrificial lamb towards the offering up of himself for the greater good of the nation.

white roadsIn depicting the hero in precisely this light, the makers of the film drew directly, though probably unwittingly, upon Judeo-Christian religious themes of sacrificial redemption: sentiments which had longstanding saturation within the greater Balkan atmosphere and culture. In order to better understand how such themes came to occupy the main content of the film, however, it is first necessary to understand how these ideas were originally understood within their religious context. The redemptive sacrifice of one on behalf of many is central to Christian belief, according to which, first and foremost, Jesus Christ offered up his own life. This he did in order to, in one sense, redeem the entire community of Christians, and, in another sense, the whole collective human race so as to become “the saviour of all men.” [1 Tim. 4:10] One may contrast this with the death of Socrates who died so as to maintain his notion of truth, but not to redeem, or for the sake of, the larger community per se. With this concept in mind, the Apostle Paul, who was steeped in Jewish religious imagery, expresses to the Christians of his own time that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice...” [Eph. 5:2] Elsewhere, when writing to the Corinthian community near Athens, he again draws upon the concept by speaking of Christ as a “paschal lamb” which has been sacrificed on behalf of the community. [1 Cor. 5.7] Paul's language here is an overt typological reference to the liberation of the Jewish nation from slavery in Egypt. This took place through the event of the Passover, where a lamb was sacrificed and its blood was placed on the wooden door frame of every Hebrew, thus prefiguring the deliverance of the entire nation from bondage. In this context the blood of Christ's own sacrifice on the wood of the Cross would have been a vivid and direct typological fulfillment of the deliverance located in the Passover to those familiar with the Old Testament symbolism and myth.

daniel iconFor the most part, Christianity adopted and adapted its own perception of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross from the analogous Old Testament Jewish practice of animal sacrifice for the remission of sins done on the Day of Atonement (Yom HaKippurim). [Lev. 16; Num. 29.7-11]. According to the Biblical tradition, two goats would be selected on this day in order to symbolically receive and bear the burden of the sin of the whole people through the laying on of the priest's hands, at which point one of them would be driven out from the community into the desert to die, and the other sacrificed and offered to God for the sake of the community. For Christians all such symbolic sacrifices came directly to apply to Christ's own sacrifice. Thus when the nation's traditions and freedom to practice its beliefs comes to be hypothetically threatened by the Roman authorities in John’s Gospel, Caïaphas, the Jewish high priest of the time, responds to the concerns of the community-nation by proposing instead the eminent death of Christ in accordance with the same religious and Biblical imagery:

Caïaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. [John 11.49-53]

Here the striking parallels with our film's hero begin to come into focus. Like Christ, Pjetër Doda needs to die in order to “gather together” the nation by linking them through the telephone grid. Jesus' mission occurred during and around the Jewish feast of the Passover, while the mission of the film's hero corresponds to the festivities of the New Year, perhaps meant to suggest some notion of rebirth and renewal. More parallels appear as the film approaches its climatic and sacrificial denouement. Our hero stumbles about through the snow as if bearing the burden of the people through an invisible cross on his personal road to Golgotha. And perhaps most important of all, our hero, like Christ, appears to die suspended on a tree or telephone pole.

white roadsThe theme of the wood or the tree as a platform of redemptive sacrifice – which, as mentioned above, traces itself back to the Passover feast of redemption from the Hebrew people's enslavement to Egypt – features prominently and repeatedly throughout the film. It is striking that the film in fact opens with our hero mounted on a telephone pole; and in the emotionally powerful closing frame we again find our hero “crucified” and hanging on the pole. This coincides with the arrival of the geological survey workers who have come to take him down from his “cross.” Panoramic shots of telephone poles appear throughout the film, complimented as they are by the repeated presence of “New Year’s” trees, which look like and resemble Christmas trees in every way. After our hero’s demise in the final shot of the film, the pole is again pictured empty and vacant, with the implication that its symbolic value transcends the life, needs and existence of our hero-worker. This is done in much the same style as one might observe Christian films of or before the period depicting an empty cross in the closing scene. Furthermore, the recurring depiction of trees and poles throughout the film evokes strong parallels with the Cross and sacrifice of Christ, which is likened explicitly to a tree in Saint Paul's letter to the Galatians: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree’.” [Gal. 3.13]

In much the same way the presence of trees throughout the film points toward the witness or martyrdom of latter Christians ascetics such as the so called “stylites” who ascended platforms and remained there in order to carry out extreme forms of asceticism. The representation of stylite-saints was quite wide-spread in post-Byzantine monastic architecture in Albania and beyond. Here we will cite two such examples from the catholicon of the Monastery of Dryano, Bularat, Dropull, Gjirokastër.

symeon iconIf we accept that one of the main purposes of the film is to depict its hero as embodying a spirit of redemptive self-sacrifice for the sake of the community, then it is quite easy to begin drawing strong parallels with Christian religious imagery and thought. In addition to this, the film's hero is portrayed in such a way as to awaken an idea of martyrdom and witness by means of his bravery and self-denial, sentiments which were extracted directly from the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is ultimately in this sense that our hero can be considered a “socialist martyr.”

Part 3: Socialist Realism
When comparing the film White Roads with the tenets of Soviet Socialist Realism, one finds adherence to, but also deviation from, these operations of propagandistic power positioning. Of the tenets of Socialist Realist film: Utopia, the “new” man/woman, movement of periphery to center as evidenced in transmigration, transmogrification and/or transgression, the double narrative system, the Stakhanovite, the party member or representative, and the cult of personality, White Roads displays only aperture and has a possible party member representative in the figure of the manager (Anderson 1995). Although it has the simplistic Socialist Realist film story of a hero and his task, it does not have the fulfillment of the task and the reward. This is not unusual, as it is late in date—1974. In the Soviet Union Socialist Realism has faded with the cultural Thaw of Khrushchev in the late 1950s, which had allowed the infiltration of “modernism” into Soviet film. Modernism in film included a hero on a journey of self-discovery, a “flat” narrative with no resolution, life as a problem and the world without structure. There was an absence of bi-polarism with grey areas instead of black and white, a belief that there was no longer a God and that the only choice was a personal one--right or wrong. The endings were open, but with aperture in the sense of questions left unanswered. In the Soviet Union, the cinematography and topics, as well as narrative structure, had become much more experimental, although scripts were still heavily censored. In Cuba, although the tenet from Socialist Realism of sacrificing the personal for the greater good remained in place, the focus also became centered on how the individual might achieved this in their daily life. Cuban cinematography had always been experimental since the 1959 Revolution, and had been infused with Modernism, as in the film Lucia (Humberto Solas 1968), and did not follow the classical narrative structure of Aristotle in filmic drama. In China, the heavily censored Maoist years following the 1949 Revolution were also coming to a close, ending the films types such as The White Haired Girl (Choui Khoua, Bin Wang, 1950), or films about Chinese female basketball players and team spirit.

white roadsThe strategies of power positioning in Socialist Realism, and in media and propaganda generally, included: the transgression of literal, cultural, societal and parental boundaries; the movement of woman from periphery to center; transmogrification and transmigration to ‘male’ and/or power images as in, for example, clothing or profession; the use of a double narrative system; the use of aperture at the end of a film; the validation and invalidation of images and narratives; and the strategies of normalization and enunciation, all of which lead to power positioning. In the film White Roads one finds societal boundaries in place with the socialist norms of 1974, and therefore no need to highlight a societal transgression in contrast with the past. The hero in Socialist Realist film of the Soviet Union was usually a woman, but here the hero is a male telephone lineman, Doda. The head telephone operator at his centre is Zana, his girlfriend, who is indeed important since she is the hub that connects society and all communications must go through her. Yet she is not in the power position of the hero, as she is merely an 'operator', and she must rely on Doda, who has the actual power to connect the lines and repair them.

white roadsThere is no double narrative system, which is usually a budding romance narrative put on hold, and a second narrative of the heroine performing her task for society taking its place. When the socialist goal is achieved, usually an amazing work-related task has been carried out by a hero-worker (Stakhanovite), the first, original narrative of the romance is returned to and the hero/heroine is given the ability to complete the romance as his/her reward for putting the societal first, before the self. While Doda is certainly self-less in the Social Realist sense, putting his work first as does his girlfriend, the two narratives of romance and socialist task are consistently interwoven, and the delay is that of Doda missing a New Year's party celebration while he is fixing the downed lines. In the film, the two characters seem less stereotyped than the Soviet Socialist Realist film of 1934-1954; the two characters seem thus more human and flawed. Doda, for example, is a good guy and throws snowballs, playing with the kids; he is also respected by his friends but not completely confident in his relationship with Zana, as she has another suitor, an intellectual poet/teacher, who is seen as the lesser man by all when compared with Doda.

white roadsThe romance, however, is very chaste and pure, following the Socialist Realist lines. In the former Soviet Union there was no sex in film until the late 1980s and 1990s, starting with the film Little Vera (Malen’kaia Vera, 1988) (Anderson 1991). Here, in White Roads, Zana blows a chaste kiss to Doda, gives him a New Year's card and they discuss (with a background of romantic music) their gifts for each other via a telephone line, while Doda is out in the forests repairing lines. There is a physical distance kept between them, even when they are together. Their main topic of conversation is their mutual work. As in most Socialist Realism, the machine is worshipped, and there are repeated and highlighted shots of the beauty of technology (phone lines in the mountains), and the necessity and strength of technology to the socialist project. The telephone centre, and operations are shown repeatedly with loving respect, for example.

The main Socialist Realist strategy used in power positioning is that of the hero worker, who has the necessity to put the social task and duty before all individual concerns. But Doda is seen as flawed, not invincible. In his last outing to repair lines in a ferocious snow storm, to connect Kukës with Tirana and Shkodra, and thus keep the socialist community intact, interconnected, and informed and functioning, there is intercutting to various individuals who use the repaired phone lines. He is the important locus who makes this possible, yet he is physically vulnerable. He loses his gloves, and falls and hurts his knee, and as he struggles to follow the line to repair the last breakage, he becomes disoriented and stops to sleep and eat some of his frozen bread. This vulnerability makes the film less schematic than the regular Socialist Realist film.

white roadsThe most interesting point is the end of the film which uses aperture – the lack of a finalized, teleological closure at the ending with all the narrative strings tied up. But whether this is from the Socialist Realist project's influence, which used aperture as a mise-en-abyme means to be didactic and say that 'as in film so in life,' so that the audience should and feels that they could mimic the Socialist Realist hero/heroine in real life, or if it stems more from the aperture found in modernist film, where the hero is on a life journey with no certainties and no answers in the end, is arguable. There is a feeling of melancholy at the end of the film, as the members of the geological survey rush forward to rescue Doda, a Christ-like figure frozen to the top of a telephone pole. As they gather around his body, like the onlookers on the Mount for Christ, it is uncertain whether he lives or dies. Certainly this climax is meant to be a focal point of the film, as the last scenes contain the only special effects. As the rescuers rush towards to his frozen, perched body, he sees them from his point of view. He then “sees” a similar POV shot in green tinting, and then another similar shot in negative stock film, with a return to a re-play of the original shot of the rescue team rushing forward. This is very disorienting and may mean to mimic his snow-blindness, or his subconscious perceptions. When he was on the pole and beginning to freeze in previous shots, his psychological voice-over lead to flashback shots of his previous New Year's party with Zana, his comrades, and foregrounded cultural dancers. With this highlighting of the unconscious mind, and the melancholy atmosphere created by lack of closure coupled with a mystical cinematography of the snow scenes, the film has a reminiscent feel of Andrei Tarkovsky’s modernist Soviet films. So the end of White Roads leaves one with more questions than answers, and while emphasizing the hero-worker and his/her necessity of self-sacrifice for socialism, it curiously also undermines the power position of the Socialist Realist project itself, by aperture, keeping the question of Doda’s survival open and mystifyingly haunting.

As we have demonstrated, the film exhibits few of the traits typically found in Soviet Socialist Realist films. It does not have the periphery to center movement of a female protagonist nor of a representative of a minority, the former a hallmark of Soviet Socialist Realist film. Instead it has a white male protagonist. The female character is relegated to the position of the girlfriend, the “waiting woman.” Since there is no periphery to center construction in the representation of the hero, there is also none of the contingent transmigration, transmogrification or transgression. The film ends with an aperture dissimilar to the aperture of Socialist Realism. In Soviet Socialist Realist film, the ending was left open in a mise-en-abyme effect to didactically illustrate “as in film, so in life.” White Roads certainly does not suggest that the viewing public should crucify themselves on telephone poles as a mirror of the Socialist Realist filmic hero, though it does exalt the sacrifice involved in Doda’s “martyrdom.”

The film also has no double storyline, but rather a single narrative. The romance is not put on hold in order to solve the dilemma of the political project's problems first. The typical male mentor in the figure of the manager or political advisor is present, but the hero cannot really be classified as a Stakhanovite, a hero-worker, who has overcome all obstacles in order to lead on the pathway that the common herd will all later be able to follow. Socialist Realism in film had long since faded away as Khrushchev had begun his cultural "thaw" in 1954, and by 1974 most filmmakers in the Soviet Union were aware of Modernism in film and the French New Wave. It had influenced film styles for over a decade in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern bloc, particularly in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Tarkovsky’s film style would be closer to the ending of White Roads than any Socialist Realist Soviet film.

Some of the reasons why the film varies from a Soviet Socialist Realist model include the history of Socialist Albania, the changes over time of the Socialist Realist expectations in film, and the post-Soviet transition syndrome. Albania was closely aligned initially in its post-World-War-II socialist history to the former Soviet Union, but broke from its bloc in circa 1961, then aligned with the Chinese Socialist bloc, but again began to break away in 1971. It is worth noting that the Chinese, during their Cultural Revolution, followed the Socialist Realist line strictly in film and opera, for example, in The White Haired Girl.

By 1974 Albania was in the throes of an isolated socialist dictatorship and needed to establish models of its own. In such a quest, the Albanian communist regime retained many of the ideological elements of the former socialist regimes such as the concept of the socialist hero who lost life for the greater good. Taking this model it invested it with the new properties of labor, though, as mentioned above, in a dissimilar way to the Stakhanovite movement. By exploring this new martyr-making movement in Albania we have tried to document a case-study that communism in Albania, consciously or unconsciously, utilized the emotional and spiritual power of Judeo-Christian sacrificial redemptive examples, along with the concept of martyrdom, in order to reinforce its ideological ends. There seems little doubt that the cinematographic representation of a man sacrificing himself for the sake of the nation, by dying on the wood of a tree, drew directly upon inherent Judeo-Christian religious and cultural values that had been deeply saturated into the fabric of the Balkan psyche for many centuries. By utilizing precisely such imagery, then, the socialist regime in Albania effectively projected itself as a religious isomorphism.

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Konstantinos Giakoumis, Christopher Lockwood, Trudy Anderson © 2016

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Updated: 20 Mar 16