The Transformation of the Countryside in Communist Albania
$95.00 / €80.00 / £68.00
Publication date: 
306 pages

In this historical monograph on non-urban communist Albania, Artan Hoxha discusses the ambitious development project that turned a swampland into a site of sugar production after 1945. The author seeks to free the history of Albanian communism from the stereotypes that still circulate about it with stigmas of an aberration, paranoia, extreme nationalism, and xenophobia.

This micro-history of the agricultural and industrial transformation of a zone in southeastern Albania, explores a wide range of issues including modernization, development, and social, cultural, and economic policies. In addition to analyzing the collectivization of agriculture, Hoxha shows how communism affected the lives of ordinary rural people. As elsewhere in the Communist Bloc, the Albanian regime borrowed developmental projects from the past and implemented them using social mobilization and a command economy. The abundant archival resources along with interviews in the field attest to the authorities’ efforts to increase consumption and to radically transform people’s tastes. But the book argues that despite the repressive environment, people involved in the sugar project were not simply passive receivers of models from the nation's capital. The author also describes that—in defiance of Cold War bipolarity—technological requirements and social policy considerations required a degree of engagement with the broader world.

List of Illustrations

Chapter 1. The Making of the Sugar Scheme: Transitioning from Empire to Nation
The Plain of Maliq in Ottoman Times
Conceiving the Reclamation of the Maliq Swamp
The Maliq Scheme and the Quest for Nation-Building and Self-Sufficiency
Albania’s American Frontier
The Maliq Scheme and Fascism’s Grand Colonial Project in Albania

Chapter 2. The Making of Maliq’s Landscape: Modern and Stalinist
Maliq’s Landscape between “Good” and “Bad” Governments
Uncompleted Reclamation
“For the Factory and Your Country”: Maliq and the Nation
Inscribing the Tabula Rasa: Gridding the Stalinist Landscape

Chapter 3. Sugar and the Communist Construction of Spatial Inequalities in Maliq
Sugar Production and the Communist Project of Social Transformation
Building and Peopling Where Once Only the Fishermen Could Go
Building Socialism, Spatializing Inequalities
Love for the Plain

Chapter 4. Maliq and the World
A Tapestry of Transnational Exchanges
Maliq and Its East-West Economy of Knowledge
Sugar Consumption and Cross-Border Exchanges

Chapter 5. Communism and After: From Sugar to Ruins
Ruins and the Angel of History
Building a Regional Integrated Economic Web
The Fall of Communism and the Unraveling of the Web
Maliq Today: Ruins, Marginalization, and Memory


“Sugarland offers a substantial and original contribution to the fields of Albanian and East European history and beyond. It brings a unique cultural history of a commodity—in this case sugar beets, and a micro-history of a region (Maliq plain) as a way of asking and answering questions that touch on a wide range of issues about modernization, development, and communist transformation. The work offers poignant, philosophical moments for pondering the past as it lays before us now—it’s detritus and rubble. Hoxha’s book is groundbreaking, original, and a joy to read.”