As part of my Atlas Corps Fellowship funding as an Albanian grantee, I was entitled of implementing a community project right after ending my Fellowship service in Washington DC, Class 26 Fellow. Three months after my Fellowship, I submitted the final report for my community project I implemented in my country, Albania.

My project developed around the major issue of Public Interest in Albania in dealing with its Communist dictatorship past (1945 to 1991).  The project suggested a research study approach towards this particular topic, questioning and measuring the level of public interest and the representation of it by the civil society in the public debate dedicated to this issue. This initiative comes as a follow up of my MA Thesis from two years ago, which aimed to shed light on the topic of the opening of secret files in Albania. The results from the comparative analysis of my Thesis’ case studies and the research from a historical scope of the subject-matter in Albania, have served well as basis of this research study. This is an ongoing research project, that despite of being published in small pieces in forms of papers, aims to conclude into a more complex research with results from public questionnaires, interviews conducted with main actors in the national and international civil society sphere and youth focus groups.

Albania had the harshest and most isolated Communist regime, as part of the Eastern Bloc. Dictator Enver
Hoxha, a hardliner Stalinist, created a repressive apparatus that continued until 1991. Albania is one of the
few ex-communist countries that has not gone through the process of reconciliation and transparency with its past. Other ex-communist countries, such as Germany and Poland, faced the issue right after the fall of their dictatorships. In the Albanian case this hasn’t happened for various reasons throughout the prolonged “transition period”. In May 2015, the Albanian Parliament passed a law on opening up the Communist-era secret police files for the interested public. The Institution to facilitate citizens’ access to the secret files was also given the power to do check-ups on political party officials and holders of public office, however, its effective role is yet to be seen, as it’s a quiet new institution that has just started its work.

Factors, such as: 25 years have passed from the Regime’s collapse; hundreds of important files
have disappeared; the risk of the uncertain public’s reaction towards the findings; many from the collaborators of that period have continued serving as political party officials and judges during transition; people who were prosecuted and have prosecuted either are at an elderly age by now or don’t live anymore and the new generation seems to not carry much of that “collective memory” weight– bring up many pros and cons opinions about the issue of dealing with the past.

By measuring the pulse of the public on such matter, analyzing it under the concept of
“public interest”, this research aims to draw a conclusion on the relevance and importance of this
action at the times when Albania wants to become part of a larger community, such as European Union, whose democratic values are deeply routed in its existence and make a case of a candidate country, like Albania to access it or not.

My interest in this issue is personal and professional. Taking it from a personal view, I am a 25 years old, who was raised listening to stories of the communist past, in a prosecuted family. As you can imagine, this makes it hard for me to ignore the topic. Also, being part of the generation of “transition”, growing up in a confused society trapped between the past communist life-style and mentality, and the European future of the country and democratization of the system, brings many micro and macro challenges in figuring out healthy ways in approaching and using
the Albanian society’s collective memory and past.

In a professional aspect, this project would represent a continuity of my interest in Human Rights, as a
Law student and my work on my Master Thesis on the same subject-matter. This is an opportunity for me
to narrow down that previous research, reflecting in a non-repetitive and more detailed perspective on
the public interest in facing its past.

The long-term development of this research is to develop a school curriculum to teach the history of Albanian communism and its present and future social effects, given the lack of knowledge of the new generation on this part of our Albanian identity and the lack of public awareness on the present existing social trauma from the past, whose effects are present in all spheres in Albania’s current developments.