Albania is a small country of 2.7 million people, wedged within the Balkan peninsula. Separated from both Greece and Italy by mere kilometres of seascape and shoreline, it borders the European Union, and, with official candidate status as a member country, strongly hopes for closer ties.
As Fred C. Abrahams describes it, the country’s transition from cultish Stalinist dictatorship to functioning democracy in only three decades should be a source of debate, intrigue and pride. The principal protagonists in the ‘drama’ of transition are ‘a paranoid dictator, an ambitious doctor, a scheming economist and an urban artist’. Observed by Abrahams himself — first as a media trainer, and next as a researcher for Human Rights Watch — the book’s action begins in the aftermath of Albania’s first democratic elections in 1990, and spans nearly three decades of complex politics leading up to Edi Rama’s new Socialist coalition, elected in 2013.