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Mehmet Shehu
2nd Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania
In office
July 20, 1954 – December 17, 1981
Preceded by Enver Hoxha
Succeeded by Adil Çarçani
Personal details
Born (1913-01-10)January 10, 1913
Çorrush, Albania
Died December 17, 1981(1981-12-17) (aged 68)
Tirana, Albania
Nationality Albanian
Political party Party of Labour of Albania
Religion None

Mehmet Ismail Shehu (January 10, 1913 – December 17, 1981) was an Albanian communist politician who served as premier of Albania from 1954 to 1981. As an acknowledged military tactician, without whose leadership the communist partisans may well have failed in their battle to win Albania for the Marxist cause, Shehu exhibited an ideological understanding and work ethic that singled him out for rapid promotion in the communist party.[1] Mehmet Shehu shared power with Enver Hoxha from the end of the Second World War. According to official Albanian government sources, he killed himself on December 17, 1981, after which the entire Shehu clan (his wife, Fiqirete Shehu Sanxhaktari, sons and other of his relatives) were arrested and imprisoned while Mehmet Shehu himself was denounced as "one of the most dangerous traitors and enemies of his country".[2] Persistent rumors remain, however, that Shehu was actually murdered on orders from Hoxha.

Early years[edit]

Shehu was born in Çorrush, Mallakastër District, southern Albania, in the family of a Tosk Muslim Imam. He graduated in 1932 at the Tirana Albanian Vocational High School funded by the American Red Cross. His specialty was Agriculture. Unsuccessful in finding employment within the Ministry of Agriculture he managed to get a scholarship to attend the Nunziatella military academy of Naples, Italy. After being expelled from this school for his pro-Communist sympathies in 1936 he gained entry to the Tirana Officers School, but he left the following year after volunteering to fight for the republican side in the Spanish Civil War. He joined the Spanish Communist Party and rose to the command of the Fourth Battalion of the XIIth Garibaldi Brigade. After the defeat of the Republican forces he was arrested in France in early 1939 as he was retreating from Spain along with his friends. He was imprisoned in an internment camp in France and later was transferred to an Italian internment camp, where he joined the Italian Communist Party.[3]

Activity in World War II[edit]

In 1942 he returned to Albania, which was under Italian occupation, where he immediately joined the Albanian Communist Party and the Albanian resistance. In 1943, he was elected as a candidate member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. In August 1943, due to his military experience, he rose swiftly to commander of the 1st Partisan Assault Brigade. Thereafter, he was the commander of 1st Partisan Assault Division of the National Liberation Army. From 1944 to 1945 he was a member of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation (the provisional government).

After WW II[edit]

After Albania was liberated from the German occupation (November 1944), Shehu became the deputy chief of the general staff and, after he studied in Moscow, became the chief of the general staff. Later, he was also a lieutenant general and a full general.

In 1948, Shehu "expurgated" from the party the element who "tried to separate Albania from the Soviet Union and lead her under Belgrade's influence". This made him the nearest person to Enver Hoxha and brought him high offices. However, he remained in Hoxha's shadow.

From 1948, he was a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo of the Party of Labour of Albania, and, from 1948 to 1953, he was a secretary of the Central Committee. He lost the latter position on June 24 when Enver Hoxha gave up the posts of Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs while retaining the premiership. Hoxha was probably not willing to yield too much power to him.

From 1948 to 1954 he was deputy prime minister (deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers) and Minister of Internal Affairs. The latter post made him commander of the dreaded secret police, the Sigurimi. In 1954, he succeeded Hoxha as premier. From 1974 he was also the Minister of People's Defence while from 1947 to his death he was a deputy of the People's Assembly.

Hard line man[edit]

During the war, Shehu won a reputation for brutality. On his command most clan chiefs in the mountains of northern Albania were executed. In 1949, he ordered 14 Catholic tribesmen in the Mirdita region executed after underground fighters aligned with conservative Albanian political exiles working as Italian Navy espionage agents executed Bardhok Biba, a relative of Catholic tribal leader Gjon Markagjoni who had turned against the tribal system to become a ranking Communist district official. Mike Burke, the American spymaster who set up a 1950 paramilitary project to oust the Albanian Marxist regime, said in 1986 that Shehu was "one tough son of a bitch", whose security forces gave U.S. agents "a tough time".

At the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (October 1961) Anastas Mikoyan, one of the Soviet leaders, quoted Mehmet Shehu, who had said at an Albanian Party Congress: "Whoever disagrees with our leadership in any respect, will get spat in the face, punched on the chin, and, if necessary, a bullet in his head."

Last years[edit]

Shehu was considered Enver Hoxha's right-hand man and the second most important person in Albania. For 40 years Hoxha was Shehu's friend and closest comrade. Shehu was one of those who prepared the Chinese-Albanian alliance and the break with the Soviet Union (December 1961). It is claimed that in 1981 Shehu opposed Enver Hoxha's isolationism. He was accused of being a Yugoslav spy.

On December 17, 1981, he was found dead in his bedroom in Tirana with a bullet wound to his head. According to the official announcement (December 18), he had committed suicide in a nervous breakdown. This was a crime under Albanian law. Shehu was declared to be a "people's enemy" and was buried in a wasteland near the village of Ndroq near Tirana. Shehu's son later launched a campaign to prove that his father had, in fact, been murdered. After his death Shehu was claimed to have been an agent of not only the Yugoslav secret services, but also the CIA and the KGB. In Hoxha's book Titoites (1982) several chapters are dedicated to Shehu's denunciation. Shehu disappeared from the official communist history of Albania. Shehu's widow Fiqerete (born Sanxhaktari) and two of his sons were arrested without any explanation and later imprisoned on different pretexts.

After the fall of Communism and his release from prison in 1991, Mehmet Shehu's younger son Bashkim started seeking his father's remains. On November 19, 2001, it was announced that Mehmet Shehu's remains had been found.

A fictionalised account of Mehmet Shehu's fall and death is the subject of Ismail Kadare's novel The Successor (2003).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Europe since 1945: an encyclopedia, Volume 1 Author Bernard A. Cook Publisher Taylor & Francis, 2001 ISBN 0-8153-4058-3, ISBN 978-0-8153-4058-4
  2. ^ Albania as dictatorship and democracy: from isolation to the Kosovo War, 1946-1998 Volume 3 of Albania in the Twentieth Century: A History, Owen Pearson Volume 3 of Albania and King Zog, Owen Pearson Author Owen Pearson Edition illustrated Publisher I.B.Tauris, 2006 ISBN 1-84511-105-2, ISBN 978-1-84511-105-2
  3. ^ Europe since 1945: an encyclopedia, Volume 1 Author Bernard A. Cook Publisher Taylor & Francis, 2001 ISBN 0-8153-4058-3, ISBN 978-0-8153-4058-4


  • Shehu, Duro. Mehmet Shehu: Im vëlla, Tirana, Bota Shqiptare: 2008.
Political offices
Preceded by
Enver Hoxha
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Albania
Succeeded by
Adil Çarçani

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehmet_Shehu — Please support Wikipedia.
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