The children of dictators do not have it easy. They carry on their backs the arsenal of crimes committed by their parents; carry on their backs the trauma from the degradation of the father myth, from God to the criminal, as well as the moral dilemmas of how to live with the shadow, and under his shadow.
When you read the biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin’s daughter, you encounter a person who spent their whole life on the run to escape her biography and the shadow of her father, while her brother and mother could not resist and ended their lives tragically.
After Stalin’s death, Swetlana changed her name to Lana Peters and left the Soviet Union. She died of loneliness and mental confusion at the age of 85 in an asylum in Wisconsin.
Zoia Ceausescu has confessed to the obsession of her mother, Elena, and the psychological violence she inflicted on her children by placing Securitate officers behind them wherever they went.
In Albania, we have only had the testimony of the son of former Prime Minister Shehu, the writer Bashkim Shehu, who not only openly distanced himself from the crimes of his family during the dictatorship but continues to this day to describe through literature the criminal life and dehumanization of a regime in which his father played a key role for decades.
In an environment like Albania where there was never a serious confrontation of justice with the crimes of communism, and where class hatred did not cease after the fall of the regime- distancing oneself from one’s father’s crimes requires courage and morale.
This case of distancing and remorse remains more than isolated, to think that many others chose to remain silent, even glorify, without any remorse, the work of the fathers, despite the stubborn facts that clearly prove their involvement in crimes against humanity.
The latest case of this glorification is the letter of the dictator’s son, addressed to the head of government and foreign representations on a procedural issue regarding the demolition of the Hoxha family’s apartment, their unjust “persecution” and the damages caused, including the theft of relics and various documents of Enver Hoxha ”.
In the multitude of other denunciations by Albanian citizens in these 30 years, on similar injustices or many times greater than this, this case would not receive any attention if the denouncer was an individual. But the sender of the letter is more than that.
He is the mirror where we can see the functionality of the democratic system, but also the ugliness of the moral system we have set up.
From the letter, we see that its sender is well acquainted with all the notions of human rights, but to date has never mentioned the violation of the victims of the regime established and led by his father for 45 years.
The irony lies in the fact that legally, thanks to the democratic system, he may even be right in his claim. But, morally, to seek to use the democratic system to preserve the relics of a dictator is shameless.
The question does not arise as to whether or not the child of a criminal is at fault, because the responsibilities for our actions in life are and should remain individual. However, just as crime remains a crime (despite the fact that it can be committed under an order), so too every action of ours is subject to moral judgment.
As the philosopher, Karl Jaspers puts it, when he speaks of guilt and culprits in post-war Germany (Die Schuldfrage, 1946), “for moral guilt, the highest instance of justice remains the conscience of everyone.”
The guilt and culprits in Albania had to be talked about immediately after the fall of the dictatorship, as long as the crimes were still fresh and their perpetrators still identifiable. But that did not happen. In the spirit of consensus between the parties that left power and those who took it, the “political fault” for 45 years of dictatorship was shared between the people and the Labor Party (the latter changed its name to the Socialist Party, thus being “washed away” by responsibilities of the past), and, all of a sudden, everyone turned into “accomplices”.
Part of the farce of dealing with the past was the sensational trials of regime leaders between 1992–1996, who would be finally released in 1999 when the Socialist Party came to power.
Their charges would change from year to year, from genocide and crimes against humanity to abuse of funds, making a farce of all the initial positive efforts for transitional justice.
Judging “political guilt” by the victors who took power in 1990 under the table would mark our entire culture of memory for three decades: the lack of lustration; lack of decommunization; efforts to rehabilitate the figure of dictator Hoxha through biographies of close associates and festive activities with his portraits; the rehabilitation of political leaders in the government of the last dictator, Alia; rehabilitation of former directors of prisons and internment camps; demolition of places of suffering to erase the traces of communist crime; anathematizing and cracking down on voices critical of uninterrupted communism after 1990; keeping alive the spirit of class hatred and its constant nourishment through public discourse and propaganda in parliament and in the media, and so on and so forth.
In this spirit of dual morality and conflict, it takes courage to apologize and forgive. Let us understand correctly, even if the son of the dictator or the whole Albanian society apologized to the victims of communism, this apology could never be measured by the inhuman treatment, suffering and ignorance caused to them and their families over the last 7o years.
But can a consensus be reached between the parties on history by avoiding truth and moral guilt? Before 1990, communism was not a system where we could point the finger at injustices, but today we can accept moral responsibility for lining up like sheep in front of the ballot box or closing our eyes and ears to the injustices inflicted on our neighbours.
And this responsibility cannot be avoided, even by the dictator’s son!