albanian bunkers history
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2. Bunkersinalbania concretemushrooms: research, production, and project by: elian stefa and gyler mydyti for: cultural planning and coexistence at: politecnico di milano - 2009 3. 1 BUNKER: A hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks. The definition of the word bunker is so legiti- mate and clear, that any person leading a country would consider employing them to protect his or her people against an attack. It would even be a human action, if the threat were real. But, what really happened in Albania? What does a bunker mean for an Albanian? The dictator Enver Hoxha leading Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, from 1945 (after WW-II), until his death in 1985, invested on building hundreds of thousands of so called concrete mushrooms, dotting the landscape, as if they are sprouting from hills, fields, beaches and roadsides of Albania and at the same time dotting peoples brains with question marks, fear and paranoia. Whatever the investment of Comrade Hoxha was, right or wrong, he achieved to drive the xenophobia to Albanians and keep them busy for 40 years. That was a great success of him he accomplished his task of defending his territory of the nation against imaginary enemies (imperialists, revisionists and counter revolutionaries) who surrounded Albania and were ready to attack. Thus, making Albania one of the most isolated countries in the world and keeping people distracted from their lack of rights and very poor quality of life. He convinced Albanians that his actions were for the sake of Albanians by continuously bom- barding them with prpaganda. One of his most famous quotes is: 'The Albanian people and their Party of Labour will even live on grass if need be, but they will never sell themselves for 30 pieces of silver and they would rather die honorably on their feet than live in shame on their knees.' For the visitors of Albania, 750,000 bunkers is a shocking number, but for Comrade Hoxha it was logical to build one bunker for every four Albanians, each designed to protect a family or hold a defending soldier and his rifle. Today, bunkers in Albania are a legacy of the paranoid past, permanent reminders of where this country comes from and the chal- lenges that lie ahead. 4. ALBANIA Tirana MACEDONIA GREECE KOSOVOMONTENEGRO ADRIATICSEA IONICSEA 2 2 Area:28,748KM Population:3,600,523 Density:134/KM albania(41'20'0'N,19'48' 0'E) years under axenophobic dictatorship: 45 AlbaniaisasmallcountryinthewesternBalkans, betweenGreece,FYROM,Kosovo,Montenegro,and theMediterraneanSeatothewest.Albaniais currentlyaparliamentarydemocracyanda transitioneconomy.TheAlbaniancapital,Tirana,is hometoapproximately895,000ofthecountry's 3.5millionpeople,anditisalsothefinancialcapital ofthecountry. LaggingbehinditsBalkanneighbors,Albaniais makingthedifficulttransitiontoamoremodern open-marketeconomy-thisispartiallyduetothe massexhaustionofthealbanianeconomyduring thecommunistregime. 5. Thereare inalbania... 750.000 bunkers 6. They are ever-present, from the shores, to the mountain peaks. They bring happiness, and tragedy. Some were destroyed, but most remain, from birth, until death. 7. They are ever-present... 8. from the shores... 9. to the mountain peaks. 10. They bring happiness... They bring happiness... 11. and tragedy. 12. Some were destroyed... 13. but most remain... 14. from birth... 15. until death. 16. 2 So how did these bunkers come to be? This chapter tries to uncover the roots of the bunkers, by looking at Albanias progression through the last century. Reclaiming Self-determination post-war progress war! keep your enemies far... andyour friendsfarther. prepared 1912 1939 1946 1961 1962 1978 17. As a reaction to this new invasion, the Communist Party of Albania was founded in 1941 and in turn organized the Conference at Pez in 1942, at which the National Liberation Army was founded. Its purpose was to unite Albanians regardless of ideology or class and to return self-determination to the people of Albania. After five centuries of oppression under the Ottoman Empire, Albania gained its indepen- dence on 1912, finally gaining self- determination. Unfortunately, this independence was short lived as the events of WWII unfolded, and the nation was overtaken by an Italian invasion in 1939. Reclaiming Self-determination 1912 19421939 18. One of the seven members of the provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party was Enver Hoxha who became First Secretary (chief administrative officer) in 1943. By 1944 the communist partisans (the active members of the National Liberation Army), succeeded in liberating the country and gained control of the country backed by the overwhelming majority of the people. In 1946, the protagonists of this movement transformed the Com- munist Party of Albania into the Labor Party of Albania which would become the sole legal political party until 1991. Enver Hoxha remained as First Secretary until his death in 1985. 1943 1944 1946 post-war progress 19. friendlystates albaniaunfriendlystates neutralstates After Hoxhas rise to power, Albania enjoyed significant improvements. Economy was revolutionized. Farmland was confiscated from wealthy landowners and gathered into collective farms that enabled Albania to become almost completely self-sufficient in food crops. Industry, which had previously been almost nonexistent, received huge amounts of investment. Electricity was brought to every rural district, epidemics of disease were stamped out, and illiteracy became a thing of the past. As ardent a nationalist as he was a communist, Hoxha excoriated any communist state that threatened his power or the sovereignty of Albania, or abandoned the Marxists principles, denouncing any hint of revisionism. This would eventually create tensions between Albania and other countries of the Easter Block. After the death of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, for whom Hoxha held a lifelong admiration, his relations with the USSR deteriorated. 1948 1961 keep your enemies far... albania pre-1961 20. friendlystates albaniaunfriendlystates neutralstates From that point on Albania became a much more radical state ideologically. Albania considered all its neighboring countries as enemies and started immediately preparing for a possible invasion, especially from USA and USSR. Its only ally was China. Hoxha believed that the U.S.S.R. was becoming social- imperialist and would not operate as a beacon of hope for the world Communist movement, but rather as ano ther capitalist state. In 1961, Hoxha made a speech in which he called Khrushchev a revisionist, anti-Marxist and a defeat- ist. Hoxha portrayed Stalin as the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union. Soon after every Warsaw Pact nation includ- ing the USSR broke relations with Albania. 1962 and your friends farther. post-1961 albanian intl.relations 21. prepared 19781972 Feeling threatened, Hoxha aimed for the coun- try to become self-sufficient in every way. This meant that even the defense of the country would be based economically and physically on the workforce of the nation. A motto of the period was The protection of the Fatherland is a duty above all other duties. Therefore except for the military preparation of the country, a great deal of importance was placed also on the fortification of the territory. The diplomatic relations with China were in turn broken in 1978 after the death of Mao Zedong and Chinas rapprochement with the West. From then on, Hoxha spurned all the worlds major powers, declaring that Albania would become a model socialist republic on its own. Bonus: meand my bunkers! Between the years 1972 and 1983, 750.000 bunkers were built in albania. They were prefab- ricated and transported troughout the whole albanian territory, concetrating on the borders, creating barricading lines, and along the coast. 22. but nobody came... 23. 3 A short period of time (1972-1984) and a huge number of concrete mushrooms (750.000) lead to a stagnation of Albania. This stagnation, since 1985, became a pain for every Albanian. Albanians have spent much of the last decade doing their best to erase any memory of Comrade Hoxhas dictatorship. Even if Albanians could smash the Statues and burn the photographs, they could not be blind, and not perceive something they coexist with, something that serves as a tool to fulfill various necessities, very expensive to remove and hard to destroy. Since the fall of Communism in 1991, bunkers have abandoned their military duty to become the venue for lovers' trysts and, in the most desperate cases, homes for the thou- sands of internal refugees. Farmers use them for chicken coops. Neophyte businessmen have converted well-located bunkers iside the cities into kiosks, burger bars, shoeshine stands, even discos. Up close, most are crumbling and weed- choked, memorials to an age of terror long gone by. Many are used as trash baskets or latrines. But in a backward land struggling to get modern in a hurry, the bunkers have also come to have some new, and unique, uses. Some of very large, room-like facilities have been turned into the Bunker Restaurant. In cobblestoned Gjirokastra, one of Albania's southern cities, one bunker is adorned with a cross, a kind of bunker-cum-church. Others are painted with psychedelic colors to resemble large flowers. Thats a reality, Albanias reality that went through and will challenge with the barriers for a better one! Today, even though Albanians ignore them or just forget about them, t