VIENNA -- Albania buried Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha in an elaborate funeral attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners Monday as the isolated Balkan nation's new ruler pledged to carry on Hoxha's hardline Stalinist policies.
'The ideological struggle against modern revisionism, which comrade Enver Hoxha waged with great consistency and determination, has been and always will be the essence of our socialist development,' Albania's official ATA news agency quoted new leader Ramiz Alia, 59, as saying.
Alia's speech was made to several hundred thousand people who packed Scanderbeg Square in the Albanian capital of Tirana as Hoxha's coffin was placed on a gun carriage draped with the red national flag and driven slowly through the city in a solemn funeral cortege, ATA said.
'The boulevards were crowded with working people who moved slowly and silently in a column, with their heads bending and tears in their eyes to bid their last farewell to comrade Enver Hoxha,' the news agency said.
ATA said Albanian flags flew at half staff, funeral dirges were played and the 'whole nation' observed five minutes of silence to honor Hoxha, who died of heart failure Thursday. He was 76.
His body was first moved Monday from the Hall of the Presidium of the People's Assembly, where it had being lying in state since Friday, to Scanderbeg Square. Then the body was taken to Tirana's Martyrs of the Homeland cemetery for burial.
Foreign delegations and journalists were barred from attending the funeral in keeping with Albania's strict isolationist policies, which have kept the small and economically backward country cut off from the outside world.
Hoxha ruled almost single-handedly for 42 years in Albania, a predominantly Moslem nation that claims to be the world's first atheist state. Slightly larger than Maryland, Albania lies along the Adriatic Sea east of Italy and is bordered by Greece and Yugoslavia.
During his iron-fisted and often brutal reign, Hoxha crushed all internal opposition, banned religion and broke ties with the West, non-aligned Yugoslavia and the rest of the communist world.
He severed relations with Moscow in 1961 after then-Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev downgraded Josef Stalin's importance, and with China in 1978 because of Peking's liberatizations after the death of Mao Tse-tung.
Alia, who became Hoxha's right-hand man, was named president of the Presidium of the People's Assembly in 1982, making him titular head of state. The son of poor Moslem parents, he joined Albania's Communist Party in 1943.
In his speech Monday, Alia paid tribute to Hoxha's treatment of those whom he considered his domestic and foreign opponents.
'He led the people with a rare political courage and profound ideological maturity in the struggle against numerous plots, pressures and interferences by the enemies of these past 40 years,' ATA quoted Alia as saying.