Albanians Burn Hoxha Books, Try to Enter Rulers' Compound

Associated Press

Soldiers fired warning shots Thursday to drive pro-democracy demonstrators out of an exclusive area where Albania's leaders live, and protesters burned books by the communist regime's late founder.

It was the second time in two days in the Albanian capital of Tirana that security forces had fired into the air to disperse crowds seeking a break with the Stalinist past and a quick transition to democracy. No injuries were reported.

Albanian state television broadcast footage showing soldiers firing salvos to keep thousands of people from forcing their way into "The Block," the small downtown section of exclusive villas for leading communist officials and their families.

A resident said the crowd converged on a roadblock closing off the district after it had demonstrated in front of the Communist Central Committee headquarters nearby. Some people climbed onto tanks, singing and dancing on top of them.

"The people wanted to go into 'The Block,' and some soldiers shot in the air without injuring anyone," said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

About 200 people nearby burned books of the founder of the communist state, Enver Hoxha, in a crater created Wednesday when thousands of protesters toppled a statue of him.

Ben Ruka, a journalist with the opposition newspaper Democratic Revival, said that another group gathered later in the day at a bookstore to burn more Hoxha books.

Hoxha died in 1985. His successor, Ramiz Alia, began to scrap Stalinism last summer amid signs of discontent. He speeded the pace of reform after popular disaffection led to riots in December.

However, Alia had refused to dismantle the Hoxha cult, provoking the outrage that led the crowd to tear down the 30-foot bronze statue dominating the downtown square.

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