Today’s post is a complete scan of Shqipëria Socialiste Marshon [Socialist Albania Marches On], no doubt the most impressive photo book published in Socialist Albania. Produced in 1969, the year in which Albania celebrated the 25th anniversary of liberation from fascist forces, the book (aimed at projecting the nation’s success to foreign audiences, as well as reinforcing this image to domestic ones) also arrived at the close of the peak period in Albania’s cultural and ideological revolution. It also bears witness to the close of a decade during which Albania had built its new international relationship with China. In fact, it is interesting to consider the image projected by this book in the same year that the first part of Mao’s cultural revolution rounded itself out. There’s very little implication of international aid in the photos in this book, although there is one fabulous image of a Chinese engineer teaching Albanians. There’s also no hint of anything like the turbulence that China experienced in its cultural revolution; Albanian socialism appears almost as stable and conflictless as one could imagine.
It’s worth comparing this book with Artet Figurative në Republikën Popullore të Shqipërisë, published the same year, also in commemoration of the anniversary of liberation. (Likewise, Ushtria Popullore në Artet Figurative is from the same year.) There, there is a good deal more reference to the international character of socialism, although it leads to some interesting incongruities (How does a bust of Mao fit into an art book ostensibly primarily devoted to commemorating the National Liberation War?) In any case, it is worth considering the struggle to undertake the project of socialist modernization with heavy reliance on foreign aid while still projecting the image of being the (last) socialist country in Europe, embattled by the revisionism of the Soviets and Yugoslavs as well as Western Imperialism. Shqipëria Socialiste Marshon gives us an important part of the history of images that promoted Albania’s success as a socialist nation, and the life it depicts is indeed a beautiful one.
A few notes about the scan: The book is a bit too wide to accommodate even the fancy scanner I have access to, and this means the outside edges of the images, along with the occasional page numbers, are often cut off. If an image really seemed to suffer from having the outer edges cropped, I’ve tried to scan that image separately. Likewise, glare is occasionally an issue. Given more time, I’d love to correct these issues, but at the moment I don’t have that time. The goal is for people to get a good idea of what the book contains, not to have the most perfect scan imaginable. I’m never able to get the book for longer than short ILL stints, and my own personal copy is pretty beat up and lacking several pages. If anyone has a copy and wants to produce better scans of certain images (or even the whole thing), let me know and I’ll drop them into this PDF. If not, this may be the best that there will be (unless anyone knows of a better scan elsewhere).