Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BunkArt and the Communist Terror in Albania

Tirana, Albania (16131211609)It was still early in the afternoon when I returned to the hotel from Mount Dajti. I had been reading online about BunkArt- an underground bunker constructed during the 1970's. Built in the side of a mountain for the dictator and military, it was designed to withstand a nuclear and chemical attack.

Tirana Bunk'Art Doors

It is definitely not for the physically challenged!  I was dropped off at the entrance/ticket booth at the start of the path. Then you had to hike about 1/4 mile up the path to the entrance of the bunker.  You had to step over concrete barriers/steps and through a myriad of armored/concrete doors as you began the journey into the labyrinth built for the communist elite and Enver Hoxha. He had his own 2 room suite although he only visited the bunkers one time.

The bunkers have only recently been converted into a mix of museum of Albanian history (there are a lot of photos and info about the pre-WW2 kingdom of Albania), witness to the horrors of communism (a lot of files from the secret police- the Sigurimi have been transcribed and even translated into English), and art installations.   Most of the rooms had "themes"- a time period or event.  There was even a "typical" Albanian apartment from the communist era- though I suspect it was likely a Party member's apartment.  They lived separate from the others in a special area of Tirana- the Blloku ("the Block").

But the Bunker also served as a memorial.  So much of the communist terror had been internalized- you couldn't complain or even lament the murder of clerics or everyday citizens who- for whatever reason had been determined to be "enemies of the state"

Communism was murderous from the very beginning.  On the very first day in power, 12 "enemies of the state" were murdered.  I am reading "Enver Hoxha: The Iron Fist of Albania" a recent biography of the dictator himself drawing upon the recently declassified secret police and communist "Party of Labor" archives. He wasn't the smartest or the strongest.  But Hoxha was a master manipulator and liar.  His determination to eliminate anyone he perceived as an "enemy" began long before world war two.

His Stalinist policies continued even after the wall fell..while Hoxha went to his eternal judgment in 1985, his hand picked successors continued to grind their own people into the ground until 1991.  Although they did get a bit nervous when Ceausescu was executed (thus always to tyrants!) Nevertheless, political prisons remained open until 1991, when communism finally fell in Albania.

BunkArt and BunkArt 2 (a smaller bunker under Tirana) were both sobering reminders of the tremendous potential for evil and man's inhumanity to man.  A constitutional republic may not be perfect but the system of checks and balances allow people to maintain their freedoms and live to their fullest potential without resorting to violence.  At the end of the day, I have to admit that I was just upset that Hoxha didn't get his firing squad in the end.  But God is just and I know that justice is being done to Enver Hoxha and friends.  

As far as souvenirs available- well the shop inside the bunker was closed.  At the ticket booth (after I exited), there were BunkArt shot glasses (!), pens, and tshirts with Hoxha's picture saying that "I visited BunkArt before you!".  I know it was meant in jest but after seeing what that monster did, I had no desire to wear his photo (please don't walk up to me with a Che Guerrero or Castro tshirt either).  I bought a pen and left with the desire to learn more about this dark era.

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