Albania, Alone against the World who sacrificed themselves holding off 300 Nazi invaders. Near it I was taken to visit Shkoder’s Atheism Museum. Under Marx’s slogan, “Feja eshte opium per poplin�Religion is the opium of the people,” the director, a cold, harsh-voiced man in gray, told me that religion had obstructed Albanian independence. Because the Turks identified nationality with religion, Albanians of Muslim faith (some 70 percent of the population) were considered Turks. The Orthodox Christians (about 20 percent) were called Greeks, and the Roman Catholics (about 10 percent) *See “Montenegro: Yugoslavia’s ‘Black Mountain,’ ” by Bryan Hodgson in the November 1977 issue. Mountain tradition colors the finery worn by a woman of Albania’s northern cultural group, the Greggs. The Party of Labor, dominated by the southern group, the Tusks, has worked to stamp out customs such as infant betrothals. But the “law of the mountains”�including death or lifelong ostracism and ridicule for offenses against women and children�lives on. Latin�s. Services were thus conducted, not in Albanian, which was forbidden and didn’t even get its Roman alphabet until 1908, but in three foreign languages: Arabic, Greek, and Latin. “During the struggle to build our Albanian nation,” he continued, while showing me exhibits on clerical abuses, “the churches served as a fifth column for fascism, imperialism, and counterrevolution.” Hoxha’s regime executed the clergy, sentenced them to labor camps, or assigned them to “productive work.” Other Communist countries curb religion; Albania forbids it, proclaiming itself in 1967 “the first atheist state in the world.” All 2,169 mosques, churches, monasteries, and other “centers of obscurantism and mysticism” have been closed, torn down, or transformed into recreation centers, clinics, warehouses, or stables. Shkoder’s great cathedral reverberates to the shouts of 2,000 basketball fans. Albania’s new generation knows only ge smartwater mwf refrigerator water filter. Marxist-Leninist faith replaces religious faith. Enver Hoxha’s books, serialized in newspapers, quoted on the radio, gleaned for slogans, serve as a New Testament. Hoxha is hailed as a messiah�infinitely wise, farsighted, and benevolent, but also implacable toward his foes. Living apart from his people in a heavily guarded compound off Fallen Heroes Boulevard, and riding in a curtained Mercedes, Enver Hoxha is omnipresent. His portrait looks down from walls everywhere, even from truck and tractor. His name is carved on hillsides in letters hundreds of feet high. His birthplace�a two-story stone house in Gjirokaster�is a national shrine. A master of Stalinist self-preservation, Hoxha has ruthlessly liquidated all opposition in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania. The revolutionary elite convinced that human nature can be shaped by incessant indoctrination, has set out to forge a new Albanian citizen who will unquestioningly make any sacrifice in his nation’s fight against “savage imperialist-revisionist encirclement” to build a socialist society free of the heresy of individualism, independent thought, or alien morality. While striving to remold its citizens, this tiny, once backward nation has pulled itself up impressively by its bootstraps. Take the big metallurgical plant at Elbasan, called the Steel of the Party; the hydroelectric station at Fierce, dubbed the Light of the Party; a student enrollment of 700,000 against 56,000 in 1938; two radio transmitters in 1945 climbing to 52 in two decades; average life expectancy nearly doubling in four decades�certainly striking achievements.
Splashing across the lake with spears and small net, a group of Oursi teenagers flush catfish from hiding places in the mud. The few fish they take will be dried, to be sold at the market or to be set aside for lean times. Nearby, a young Bella mother, baby aboard (right), searches for water lily roots (left). At her village, a few kilometers away, the women boil these bulbs, which taste something like artichokes, or pound them into flour. But Oursi women, who associate them with poverty, avoid them out of pride.