The Soviet Union made its strongest and most direct appeal to the Communist leaders of Albania today, proposing "honest, equal and mutually beneficial" cooperation to end the 22-year-old breach between them.
The offer was linked directly to the new Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov, by the authoritative Communist Party newspaper Pravda. It said Andropov had Albania in mind when he spoke of his "sincere wish" to develop and improve relations with all socialist countries.
Although Andropov made no direct reference to Albania in his Nov. 22 speech, he said "mutual good will, respect for each other's legitimate interests and common concerns for the interests of socialism and peace should prompt correct solutions also where appropriate trust and mutual understanding are still lacking for various reasons."
Relations between the two former allies were broken in November 1960 when Albanian leader Enver Hoxha last visited Moscow. According to an official Albanian account of the visit, Hoxha bitterly quarreled with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader at the time, and Mikhail Suslov, the Kremlin's chief ideologist.
The Albanians refused to even shake hands with their Soviet hosts and immediately left a Soviet government residence house in Lenin Hills to sleep at their embassy here for fear they would be poisoned, according to the account.
The Albanians, according to the account, also refused to fly aboard an airliner to Albania and instead went by train.
The same account mentions that the Albanian leadership prior to meeting Khrushchev and Suslov had a reasonably friendly meeting with Andropov, who at the time served as chief of the Soviet Central Committee's department for relations with other Communist countries. Andropov is one of the few Soviets who have actually visited Albania.
The two countries broke diplomatic relations in early 1961 over ideological differences and what Albanians claimed to be Moscow's interference in their internal affairs. The strongly Stalinist Hoxha then allied his country with China.
China was Albania's only ally from then until 1978, when the two fell out over Peking's policy toward the United States.
The tiny, strategically located Balkan country sandwiched between Greece and Yugoslavia has since kept itself isolated from the outside world.
Hoxha, 74, who has ruled Albania's 2.7 million people for 38 years, frequently has made news by bloody purges of the party leadership. Virtually all top leaders over the previous three decades have been executed on charges of having worked for the intelligence services of the United States, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
Most recently, Defense Minister Kadri Hasbia disappeared under mysterious circumstances. He was the brother-in-law of Mehmet Shehu, former prime minister and Hoxha's closest associate for more than three decades. Shehu was reported to have been executed. A number of relatives of Hasbia and Shehu are reported to be in jail on conspiracy charges.
Today's overture to the Albanian leadership made no mention of Hoxha. The Pravda article marking Albania's national day, in contrast to previous such commentaries, refrained from criticizing the leadership and spoke in glowing terms about the struggle of Albanian Communist partisans against Nazi Germany and Italy in World War II.
The only critical reference spoke of the Albanian leadership "at the beginning of the 1960s" as having adopted a policy of "terminating political, economic and cultural relations" with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.
The present state of relations, Pravda said, is not in the interest of either country and is harming "the work of socialism and the anti-imperialist struggle."
The breach in relations, however, had deprived Moscow of access to Albania's Adriatic ports at Durress and Vlora, something that the Soviet military is eager to regain.
Although Moscow has made periodic overtures to Albania, today's Pravda article is the strongest to date as it links it directly to Andropov's appeal.
While this is in line with Moscow's current policy, including its gradual rapprochement with China, the Soviets apparently believe that Albania's economic difficulties and political turmoil give hopes for an eventual improvement in relations with the small Balkan country. Given Hoxha's age, the Russians apparently also believe that future Albanian leaders may be more ready to resume ties.
Along with the Pravda article, the Soviet media today blossomed with reports about Albania. The news agency Tass reported that the Albanian-Soviet Friendship Society, a largely dormant body, today held a meeting to commemorate the Albanian national day