There are 750,000 concrete military bunkers reported to exist across Albania.
They were built during the communist regime of Enver Hoxha between 1960’s and 1980’s. During this time Albania was under a strict communist regime and the country was isolated. Bunkers were built around the country, inspired by North Korea, as a refuge for Hoxha in case of an attack. Today they are mostly abandoned but some have been given a new life and are open to the public.
Between 1967 until 1986 the Albanian government entered a period of ‘bunkerization’. Resulting in the construction of bunkers all over Albania. The bunker symbolised a defensive position across the entire country. Hoxha’s regime was so insular and hostile that few outside allies existed. The country sank into isolation and economic stagnation. Fearing an invasion from NATO or former Soviet allies a paranoid Hoxha built up his defence to defend Albania at all costs. Propaganda served to remind citizens to be vigilant.
The bunkers are made out of concrete and are typically a small dome set into the ground. Most were very small, accommodating one or two people. These are known as QZ bunkers.
Command and control, or PZ bunkers, were larger bunkers with an interlocking roof.
Finally, larger bunkers were also designed for strategic purposes and were often tunnelled into mountains. Many secret tunnels were used to keep political and military assets.
Albania’s already weak economy was hugely impacted by the bunkerization programme. Not only was it expensive, it diverted resources away from where it was needed, such as developing infrastructure. Not to mention the land that was taken up to house the large structures.
They became a symbol of Hoxha’s control and intimidation. The bunkers created a permanent sense of paranoia for Albanians.
They were abandoned following Hoxha’s death and the collapse of communism. Resulting in thousands of unused bunkers spread across the country. Some of the bunkers have been repurposed and used as accommodation, storage, cafes, animal shelters and museums. Many have been abandoned, left dotted around the otherwise beautiful landscape.