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]