Bunkers in Albania
Thousands upon thousands, almost a million mushroom shaped, concrete and steel bunkers pop out of the Albanian countryside like pockmarks upon the face of a country that saw worse times. Littering the entire country, these bunkers where once meant to provide protection for the citizens of Albania in the event of an attack, rather they ensured that a dictatorial society was kept in perpetual fear. In this time of Communist paranoia, Albania constructed 700,000 bunkers in every corner of the country. A bus ride through the rural areas of Albania reveals thousands of little mushroom shaped structures, complete with rifle openings, sticking out of almost every hill, backyard, and farmer’s field. Whatever it was that Albania was afraid of, they were surly ready to hide from it.
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Some dictators leave behind monuments, some leave great works of engineering, Enver Hoxha left bunkers. Almost a million of them polka dot the fabric of the Albanian landscape. It is said that when a prototype for the bunkers was presented to Hoxha, he demanded the architect to go inside of it. A tank was then ordered to open fire. The bunker withstood the shelling, the architect survived, and Hoxha gave the go ahead to build nearly a million replicas of the prototype all over the country.
Other than its bloody legacy and the ruins of decrepit factories, these mushroom shaped defensive bastions are perhaps the most obvious reminder of the Communist era in Albania. But these times are now in the past, Hoxha is dead – and all of his statues have long been turned to rubble – but the bunkers still remain.
“We had no place to live, but we had plenty of bunkers,” an Albanian spoke of the Communist era. There is still one bunker for every four Albanians today, and nobody seems to know what to do with all of them. An arms grant from China was enough to build them, but there does not seem to be enough money to dispose of these destitute reminders of a fallen political regime. So the people just live around them as they always have. It is common in Albania to see a bunker raising out of a flower garden or farmers just plowing their fields around them. There does not seem to be much that the people of Albania can do in the aftermath of this invasion of overgrown speed bumps, so they just go on with their daily lives in the face of an era that was gratefully reduced to mortar and rubble.
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Bunkers in Albania