Easter in Albania

Easter in Albania

Albanians can’t help remembering the country’s “dark” communist past where religion was banned and even an Easter egg could land you in jail.

“It was a depressing time,” said Anastas Karaj, 60, a shepherd from the Selta village, central Albania.

“Everything religious was banned, and you could only celebrate secretly at home. If you were caught, you could end up in prison or labor camp. And if government informants found pieces of painted eggshells on your compost heap, they could take you away.”

In 1967, dictator Enver Hoxha proudly proclaimed “Europe’s first atheist country.” During his 41-year Stalinist regime, more than 1,600 churches and monasteries were destroyed. Priests were kidnapped and sometimes murdered.

Still, in Albania, which is officially 70 percent Muslim and 30 percent Christian, religion has a growing significance only to a point, analysts say.

“A lot of people in Albania claim a religious affiliation or origin, but this often has limited role in the everyday life of the majority,” said Dimitris Dalakoglou, an anthropologist at Britain’s University of Sussex who specializes in the Albania.

“Luckily, in the whole country, the relations between religions, between Muslims and Christians are fairly peaceful and people understand and respect each others’ faith,” said Mr. Karaj. “I have married my two daughters to Muslims. It doesn’t bother us.”

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