Albania Holds to Orthodox Views on Human Rights
TIRANA — HUMAN rights as perceived by Western democracies are not a subject of discussion here. The June 3-4 massacre in Beijing, for example, barely made the news. Albania's silence over events in China underscores just where this outpost of revolution still stands ideologically.
Despite an easing of relations with Western and other noncommunist lands, Albania claims to hold to a ``pure'' Marxist-Leninist view of the world. Western liberalism is no more acceptable than Soviet or Chinese, or even ``reform'' communism.
Albania has endured centuries of invasion and subjugation. Huns, Goths, Avars, and Slavs all took their turn. In modern times, even after Albania gained independence from Turkey in 1912, rival pressures from European powers, Balkan and European wars, and subsequent years of occupation left Albanians little chance to build a stable state.
``For us,'' says an official firmly, ```human rights' still mean our independence above all else.''
Even so, the outlook from Albania seems to be broadening.
Antipathies toward superpowers are unabated. But old suspicions and hostility toward the West Europeans are rapidly subsiding.
The prime motivation, of course, is economic efficiency. Not only the economists but Albania's political leadership shows itself increasingly aware also of a pending, new ``European reality'' (as it is termed here) which Albania ``cannot afford to ignore'' - the single West European market envisaged by the European Community after 1992.
As a result, Albanian officials have encouraged new diplomatic ties and economic links and even expressed interest in Western or United Nations-based international organizations concerned with economic development.
But East-West forums on security and cooperation - with the related issue of human rights - still have no place in this enlarged picture. Any semblance of group alliance is shunned, and Albanian officials maintain an orthodox communist view on individual civil rights.
``Albanians already enjoy the real human rights, i.e., guaranteed jobs, free education and medicare, as well as democratic participation in government,'' government officials insist.
On this last point, Albanian President Ramiz Alia, the pragmatic leader who took over in 1985, made much of local elections in May in which there were twice as many candidates as seats. Moreover, many successful candidates were nominated by voters from the floor.
In addition, cultural exchanges with many Western countries increased dramatically in the last year. Albanian writers and filmmakers now attend all the major West European book and film festivals. Translation of contemporary, even controversial, literature is being steadily increased. Language studies in English, French, and German in secondary schools and universities and on TV are getting a vigorous boost.
There is immense pride in the successful publication in Western Europe of outstanding novels by leading writer Ismail Kadare. His work sometimes combines a medieval, religious background with an epic flavor of a primitive Albanian society awakening to the outside world. It has a significant ring for what seems to be happening here today.
Mr. Kadare and others recently made forthright calls for tolerance and recognition for new writing seeking to replace what he denounced as ``black and white clich'e'' treatment of life that has had official preference thus far.
Such views encounter ``conservative'' opposition just like anywhere else. ``Official'' leeway for new ideas is gradual. But - with 60 percent of population below 25 - gradual change seems increasingly inevitable.