Underground Religious Culture under Surveillance in Communist Albania, 1967–1990

In: East Central Europe
Konstantinos GiakoumisLOGOS University College, Tirana, Albania,

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This article explores the significance of religious material culture for identity processes during times of surveillance and persecution under Albania’s communist regime, especially after 1967. At that time, the anti-religious actions of the state intensified, leading to Albania’s proclamation as the first world-wide atheist state in its 1976 Constitution. This article comparatively explores two religious artifacts and the stories of the faithful who preserved and used them in religious life. These two artifacts are the relic and reliquary of the skull of St. Nikodemos of Vithkuq, preserved in the house of Ilia Koçi in Berat, and the aer of Fr. Kozma Qirjo, kept and used by him in the course of his underground activity as a priest at his village, Bestrovë, and elsewhere. With the help of these two case studies contextualized in the theoretical frame of this work, the article demonstrates how surveillance and prosecution mobilizes identity processes that often act in dissidence to the political establishment.

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