A book talk by Elidor Mëhilli (Hunter College, History).
From Stalin to Mao captures the powerful globalism of post-1945 socialism, as well as the unintended consequences of cross-border exchanges from the Mediterranean to East Asia. After a decade of vigorous borrowing from the Soviet Union—advisers, factories, school textbooks, urban plans—Albania’s party clique switched allegiance to China during the 1960s Sino-Soviet conflict, seeing in Mao’s patronage an opportunity to keep Stalinism alive. Mëhilli shows how socialism created a shared transnational material and mental culture—still evident today around Eurasia—but it failed to generate political unity. Combining an analysis of ideology with a sharp sense of geopolitics, he brings into view Fascist Italy’s involvement in Albania, then explores the country’s Eastern bloc entanglements, the profound fascination with the Soviets, and the contradictions of the dramatic anti-Soviet turn. Richly illustrated with never-before-published photographs, From Stalin to Mao draws on a wealth of Albanian, Russian, German, British, Italian, Czech, and American archival sources, in addition to fiction, interviews, and memoirs. Mëhilli’s fresh perspective on the Soviet-Chinese battle for the soul of revolution in the global Cold War also illuminates the paradoxes of state planning in the twentieth century.
A photo essay by Elidor Mëhilli on 1950s Albania is available here.