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Albania is riddled with decaying Soviet-era bunkers


Wired's Pete Brook talks with Dutch photographer David Galjaard, author of the 2012 Aperture Foundation/Paris Photo First Photobook Award-winning book Concreso, a photo-essay on the insane "bunkerization" practiced by the paranoid Soviet Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. Hoxha built a one bunker for every four Albanians, 24 per square kilometer, and now the country has no idea what to do with all these decaying, apocalyptic concrete blobs.

“I’m telling a story about a country and I’m using bunkers as metaphors,” says Galjaard. “Albania is an Eastern country but it wants to be part of the West. It has one foot in each, and the split is sort of unnatural. Albanians still have not found their identity so they struggle with the past, but also struggle with the future. And future for them is being part of Western Europe.”

The Communist leader Hoxha rose to power in 1944 as leader of the Party of Labour of Albania and ruled until his death in 1985. Hoxha was on constant alert for political threats and maintained his position with routine immobilization, imprisonment and eviction of his people and political opponents. Hoxha’s suspicions also extended beyond Albanian borders and the bunkers, which number 24 to every square kilometer, and were built in preparation for a multi-front war Hoxha expected from invading countries, East and West. Every citizen in Hoxha’s plan was a reservist. Twelve-year-olds were trained to fire rifles. The bunkers never saw action.

Today, Albanian authorities are at a loss for what to do. The reinforced concrete domes are as difficult to repurpose as they are to destroy. Tourists are fascinated by the bunkers strewn like confetti across scenery, but for locals they’re a largely uninteresting, if obstructive, part of the landscape.”

Paranoid Dictator’s Communist-Era Bunkers Now a National Nuisance [Pete Brook/Wired]

Election fraud: Live footage of Albanian hunger striker camp

Philippe Parreno sez,
On June 28th 2009, Albania held its parliamentary elections. These elections were supposed to mark a watershed moment in the country's democratic transition: a break with the tradition of manipulated and contested elections. Unfortunately the story was to repeat itself.

The Socialist led opposition complained about multiple irregularities in the electoral process and its claims were supported by the OSCE-ODHIR report that observed serious irregularities, the most disturbing of which concerned the fact that ballot counting in a full one third of the counting centers was bad or very bad. However, all the complaints of the opposition were dismissed by the relevant institutions, through decisions taken under extreme political pressure from the government.

Following the scandalous certification of the electoral results through a tainted legal process, the opposition declared that it recognized the results of the June 28th elections, but that nevertheless, it demanded full and thorough transparency of the process through a parliamentary inquiry; an inquiry which would include the opening of the ballot boxes and the examination of the electoral materials contained therein; an inquiry, which would not serve to change the results of the elections, but simply to save future elections from falling prey to the same machinations and manipulations.

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