Former Albanian political prisoner Tomor Aliko among guests at Mene Tekel festival

Tomor Aliko

This week, Prague is hosting the fourth international Mene Tekel festival which highlights the crimes of communism and presents the testimonies of those persecuted by totalitarian regimes. On Thursday, the festival is screening a short Albanian documentary called Prison Nation, which describes one of Europe’s most vicious communist regimes. Radio Prague met with Tomor Aliko, a former Albanian political prisoner, whose powerful testimony is featured in the film.

“Prison Nation” is a short documentary about the crimes of communism in Albania. Between 1946 and 1991, one of Europe’s most brutal totalitarian regimes killed more than 5,000 people, while another 70,000 were sentenced to years in jail. One of them was Tomor Aliko, who was sentenced to life shortly after the communists took over Albania.

Tomor Aliko
“In 1946, I was a student, and I wanted to become an army officer. But the communists had already taken over, and I disagreed with the dictatorship, I was a nationalist and an anti-communist. I did not fight against the regime with a gun; I was an ideological opponent. So I was arrested and sentenced to life.”

After 16 years in prison, Tomor Aliko was released, but the authorities kept a close watch over him until the fall of communism in the early 1990s.

“When they let me out of prison, they kept me in internment until the fall of communism in the country. They did that to make sure people like me did not leave the country. I had to move to a place far away from my hometown, and I was under constant surveillance.”

Mr Aliko’s testimony is featured in the documentary Prison Nation along with those of other former political prisoners. Mr Aliko believes that the brutal and sometimes even bizarre nature of the regime in Albania had a lot to do with the personality of the country’s dictator, Enver Hoxha.

“Albania had the fiercest communist regime in Europe. People were afraid to show any trace of their own opinions; the ideological persecution was overwhelming. Also, Albania was a special case because religion was banned by the law. The reason was that the dictator, Enver Hoxha, learned a lot from his predecessors – Stalin and Hitler. It was the nastiest regime in Europe.”

Enver Hoxha
Unlike most post-communist countries, Albania has not launched any systematic study of the past regime’s crimes. Also, the country’s top court earlier this month scrapped legislation that opened secret police files and banned former police informants from holding public offices. But former political prisoner Tomor Aliko hopes to see his country will one day learn about what really happened.

“The problem is that many socialist MPs have direct links to the totalitarian regime of the past, and some of their relatives were even members of the communist hierarchy. But we certainly hope that the government will open the files in the future.”

More details about Tomor Aliko, the documentary Prison Nation and the festival Mene Tekel can be found at