While the physical reminders of Josef Stalin’s paranoia are the crumbling wooden barracks and rusted barbed wire of his notorious gulag system, they are mostly located within the Arctic Circle and far from centers of human habitation.
Albanians on the other hand, are served daily visual reminders of their former dictator’s obsessions.
I returned to this jewel of the Balkans in May of 2017 with a desire to photograph a few more bunkers and to explore and document parts of the extensive tunnel system that Enver Hoxha ordered built for the expected invasion that never happened, as well as the abandoned military bases that dot the landscape including the country’s largest deserted army facility.
Some have been creatively adapted by farmers for overnight lodging of livestock. Another tunnel complex, after a long passageway in total darkness, led to a dimly day-lit chamber with telemetry readings on the wall meant to direct artillery against enemy warships. Hoxha believed that his country was surrounded by adversaries and that attack was imminent. From NATO forces landing on the beaches of the Adriatic Sea, from his former wartime ally Tito of Yugoslavia, whom Hoxha felt had deviated from the path of pure communism, and from the various military juntas that ruled Greece during that period.
Some of these facilities look like the ruins of an ancient civilization, but in fact many of them were constructed in the 1970s. One beneficiary of these structures has been bats, large colonies of which have taken over some of these spaces.
When Albanian communism ended in the early 1990s, an enraged and impoverished populace looted these structures, carrying away what they could and smashing what they could not.
Since then, time and the elements have taken their steady toll.
I offer these images in tribute to the long endurance of the Albanian people who deserved so much better.
Photographer’s Note: None of the images in “Enver’s Bunkers Part 2”, or in the previous series “Enver’s Bunkers” would have been possible without the hard work, endless resourcefulness, and incredible good cheer of my assistant, Mr. Manol Shamo. If he is representative of Albania’s youth, then I have no fears for that country’s continued development and prosperity.
Michael Anton, Summer 2017