Ramiz Alia, the man expected to succeed Enver Hoxha as leader of Albania, is a strict Marxist who appears determined to keep his small, mysterious country on the same orthodox communist path it has followed since the end of World War II.

A medium-sized, balding figure, Alia, 59, has spent much of his career overseeing the propaganda activities of the Albanian Workers' Party, promoting a Stalinist line. For many years he was out of public view, but reportedly played an important role as the leadership's chief watchdog on ideology.

He has been a full member of the party's ruling Politburo since 1961, emerging as the number two in the Balkan state after the suspicious death of prime minister Mehmet Shehu in 1981.

In 1982 Alia was appointed president of the Presidium of the People's Assembly (legislature) -- making him the titular head of state -- and promptly became the object of an image-building campaign by the state-controlled media, apparently intended to ensure a smooth succession.

Alia took on the role of the party's chief speechmaker and public figure, showing no signs of deviating from the domestic or foreign policy line laid down by Hoxha during the past 40 years -- a line Alia presumably helped shape.

Recent comment in the Albanian press has played up Alia's activities in World War II when, as a youthful political commissar, he accompanied Albanian partisans fighting retreating German troops in neighboring Yugoslavia.

Alia was born the son of poor Moslem parents on Oct. 18, 1925, in the northern town of Shkoder. He joined the communist party in 1943 and moved to the party's propaganda department in 1948. After a purge in 1955, he became minister of education. The next year he was named a nonvoting member of the Politburo.