21.3 x 34 cm
Soft cover with embossing, Swiss binding
Edition of 750, including 78 special editions
Fearing an attack from abroad, Albanian Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha had around 750,000 above-ground bunkers built during his time in power, from 1945 until his death in 1985. This amounts to one bunker per four Albanians, in a country the size of Belgium. Although built for protection, they proved counterproductive in that they merely helped to create more fear in the utterly isolated population. After the collapse of communism in 1991, the virtually indestructible bunkers were deprived of their unfulfilled purpose, serving purely as an obtrusive reminder of a dictatorship that had had lasted for almost fifty years.
Today their massed presence seems mainly to impress foreigners, while Albanians themselves prefer to look to the future. The country’s admission to NATO on 1 April 2009 is felt to be a first step towards joining the European Union. Although accession to the EU is expected to take at least another ten years, the population has a sense of being ready for it.
In this documentary, the bunkers are used as a visual metaphor in the telling of a larger social story. They help to paint a picture of developments in a country that was the last in Europe to renounce communism and has set out on a demanding quest to become part of the capitalist West.
The bunkers do not merely tell an absurd story about a xenophobic regime in a totalitarian past. The diverse uses they are put to today and the fact that more and more of them are disappearing – and how – also shows that what was until recently the poorest country in Europe is slowly but surely undergoing a profound change.