The Sino-Albanian Split & Khrushchev’s Attempted Coup against Socialist Albania

“The spillover from the Sino-Soviet conflict into Eastern Europe was evident almost immediately. In late 1960 and early 1961 the Albanian leader, Enver Hoxha, sparked a crisis with the Soviet Union by openly aligning his country with China, a precedent that caused alarm in Moscow. Quite apart from the symbolic implications of Hoxha’s move, Khrushchev had always regarded Albania as a key member of the Warsaw Pact because of ‘its superb strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea.’ The rift with Yugoslavia in 1948 had eliminated the only other possible outlet for the Soviet navy in the region. To ensure that Albania could serve as a full-fledged ‘military base on the Mediterranean Sea for all the socialist countries,’ the Soviet Union had been providing extensive equipment and training to the Albanian army and navy. In particular, the Albanian navy had received a fleet of twelve modern attack submarines, which initially were under Soviet control but were gradually being transferred to Albanian jurisdiction. Khrushchev believed that the submarines would allow Albania to pose a ‘serious threat to the operation of the NATO military bloc on the Mediterranean Sea,’ and thus he was dismayed to find that Soviet efforts to establish a naval bulwark on the Mediterranean might all have been for naught.

As soon as the rift with Albania emerged, the Soviet Union imposed strict economic sanctions, withdrew all Soviet technicians and military advisers, took back eight of the twelve submarines, dismantled Soviet naval facilities at the Albanian port of Vlona, and engaged in bitter polemical exchanges with the Albanian leadership. Khrushchev also ordered Soviet warships to conduct maneuvers along the Albanian coast, and he secretly encouraged pro-Moscow rivals of Hoxha to carry out a coup. The coup attempt was rebuffed, and the other means of coercion proved insufficient to get rid of Hoxha or to bring about a change of policy. In December 1961, Khrushchev broke diplomatic relations with Albania and excluded it from both the Warsaw Pact and CMEA. However, he was unwilling to undertake a full-scale invasion to bring Albania back within the Soviet orbit, not least because of the logistical problems and the likelihood of confronting stiff armed resistance.”

 — Carole Fink, Philipp Gassert & Detlef Junker (Ed.). 1968: The World Transformed. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1998. pp. 117-119.

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