ister was eventually denounced and destroyed as a traitor, andrnin which vinestakes had sharpened points to impale the enemyrnparachutists supposedly always about to invade!)rnOne definition of justice in the communist-produced AlbanianrnDictionary reads, “The sword of the People, by which arntraitor is sliced.” Berisha was soon well down this same path,rndumping the cofounder of his original Democratic Party, jailingrn(despite international protests) former Prime Minister FatosrnNano on trumped-up corruption charges, and blatantly riggingrnthe 1996 elections. The extent to which Berisha was involvedrnin the old regime remains obscure—he has naturally rewrittenrnhis own history—but he was more continuation than change.rnAlthough far from a complete diagnosis, Tirana-based Baptistrnmissionary Glyn Jones’ statement in 1997 gives universal foodrnfor thought: “The world’s strongest atheistic government destroyedrnall personal morality and left a whole nation with hardlyrnany sense of right and wrong. There is a lesson here for anyrndemocracy which allows erosion of the moral basis on which itsrnsociety rests.”rnAlbanian vendettas are strictly governed by the Great Codern(Kanun) devised by the 15th-century prince, Lek Dukagjini.rnPope Paul II excommunicated him in 1464 for the code’srn”most un-Christian” content. Consisting of 1,263 separate provisions,rnit was definitively edited and published by the scholarpriestrnShtjefen Gje^ovi (1873-1929). Margaret Hasluck’s ThernUnwritten Law of Albania (1954) provides historical background.rnKadare’s novel Broken April (available in English), setrnin the 1930’s, has for its theme the Kanun and a long-runningrnfeud between two village families.rnThe Kanun covers not only killings but all bodily assaults,rndisputes over inheritances and land, and theft: “The Kanun wasrnstronger than it seemed. Its power reached everywhere—lands,rnfields, houses, tombs, roads, markets, weddings—to the veryrnskies whence it fell as rain to fill the water-courses, the cause ofrna good third of all murders” (Kadare). When Albanians demandedrnthat Berisha’s government compensate them forrnmonies lost in the notorious pyramid schemes, they were reactingrnin the spirit of the Kanun: recompense is a legal and moralrnclaim. The Kanun puncfiliously extends even to the damagingrnof doors, e.g., if a door is holed by a bullet, the transgressor surrendersrnhis own for the damaged one, which he must foreverrnkeep as a reminder. (Hence, in the recent mass vandalisms,rnthe seemingly bizarre removal of doors from other people’srnhouses.)rnNot that all such acts were licit retribution. As Julian Amery,rnwho through his World War II service knew Albanians as wellrnas any foreigner can, writes in his memoir Sons of the Eaglern(1948), “They variously proclaimed themselves Fascists, Communists,rnor Democrats, in obedience to the calculations of interestrnrather than the dictates of conviction.” SimilarlyrnPlutarch on Pyrrhus and company: “They treat the words warrnand peace as current coins, using whichever is to their advantage,rnregardless of justice.” We in North America have becomernall too accustomed to looting being justified in pseudosociologicalrnterms.rnThe rules of the blood feud are quite elaborate. Suppose Xrnhas killed Y in revenge for the shooting of his brother.rnThis may be a new vendetta, or the continuation of a decadesoldrn—even centuries-old —one. X is now technically a “justicer.”rnKillings are individual. The Kanun forbids massacres, arnfactor in the Berisha regime’s failure to execute the top communistrnofficials en masse —nor were any lynched. The ultimaterntragedy is the victim who has no family member left tornavenge him. There is a special word (one of many to do withrnblood) for him in Whanian—gjakhupes. X may not havernwished to kill Y, but may have been coerced by his father andrnthe sight of his dead brother’s bloodstained shirt fluttering—asrnprescribed —in the open air, especially if the stains have yellowed,rna sign of the unquiet spirit demanding vengeance—veryrnAeschylean. In the actual killing, X must confront Y with thernwords “please give my greetings to … ” (naming his dead brother),rnthen leave the body face-up, rifle by its head. To omit thisrnritual is a great disgrace. If overcome by the emotion colloquiallyrnknown as bloodsickness, X may ask a passerby to perform itrnfor him.rnIn Lek’s day, stones were used as weapons or carried in racesrnto settle land disputes. When firearms came in, old vMbanianrnpistol butts were commonly inscribed, “When you shoot, it isrnGod who aims.” A ubiquitous communist poster slogan proclaimed,rn”With pickax in one hand and rifle in the other we arernbuilding Socialism.” A local proverb transcends the centuries:rn”The Albanian response to all challenge—a bullet between therneyes.” Hence their much-photographed addiction to the publicrnbrandishing and discharging of guns.rnNot all “justicers” are crack shots. The Kanun acknowledgesrnthis. If the would-be killer only wounds his target, he may eitherrnpay a fine assessed by the village mediator and maintain hisrnvendetta, or not pay and give it up, since the wounded prey isrnthen declared out of bounds. Compensation for wounds is variouslyrnassessed: head injuries count twice as much as others; allrnare categorized by bodily location. Kadare describes a muchwoundedrnfugitive who supported his family on monies received,rnsumming up in Marxist terms: “Behind the semi-mythicalrndecor, look for the economic component. As withrneverything else, blood has been transformed into money.” Arngenuine flourish: the vampire was one of Marx’s favorite imagesrnfor capitalism (he used it three times in Das Kapital). The mostrntelling economic aspect was the blood tax, payable by a killer tornthe regional collector, who recorded such transactions in hisrnBlood Book. This tax played a major role in the local economy.rnLedgers speak of good years (many kiflings) and bad ones (few).rnThe family of X, the “justicer,” immediately prepares defenses.rnMale relatives, if prudent, will lie low or leave the communityrnuntil the truce is obtained. The women are dispersedrnto other village houses; laws of hospitality compel their acceptance.rnWomen, like the priests of Albania’s three religionsrn(Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim), are exempt from the vendetta.rnThis helps to explain why Hoxha’s widow, Nexhmije, althoughrnthe first communist luminary to be tried, had her prison sentencernquickly commuted, instead of facing a firing-squad as didrnElena Ceausescu in Rumania. The Kanun’s provision for executionrnof unmarried pregnant girls by their male relatives illuminatesrnthe fact that in all of Hoxha’s purges the only femalernvictim of consequence was one Liri Gega, officially a “Titoistrnagent,” who was pregnant at the time and so deemed a betiayerrnof the communist family honor as well as her country.rnX is now the target of Y’s family, although they may replacernhim by a brother, an option rarely exercised. A black ribbon,rnworn on the sleeve, advertises his status as prey. His family willrnask Y’s for a 24-hour Besa or truce. This is usually granted. Violationrnof it, or of any part of the Kanun, is punished. The transgressor’srnown family, in concert with the village (led by the Flamurtarrnor standard bearer)—will burn his house and kill hisrnJANUARY 1998/17rnrnrn