Photographing Albania’s Cold War Bunkers

Following 6 long years of occupation during World War II, first by Fascist Italy and subsequently by Nazi Germany, Albania finally declared its independence with the establishment of the People’s Republic of Albania on 11 January 1946. As with many Eastern Bloc nations struggling to overcome wartime deprivation, the country turned to Communism and Enver Hoxha has installed as leader. His rule would last over 40 years.

One particularly strange aspect of Hoxha’s Albania was his paranoid programme of “bunkerisation”. Between 1967 and 1986 over 700,000 bunkers sprang up in every corner of the country: neither beaches, mountains, vineyards, graveyards nor hotel lawns were free of these concrete, iron and steel monstrosities. Averaging 24 bunkers per square kilometre, there was one for every four citizens. Albania’s Cold War bunkers were preparation for guerrilla warfare in the event of invasion, as Hoxha’s devoutly hardline policies alienated the country from its neighbouring communist states in the post-Stalinist era.

From the series "Concresco" by David Galjaard

Dutch photographer David Galjaard recently undertook a fascinating journey to make a visual record of the most obscure, ironic and bizarre Albanian bunkers. The series was published in 2012 under the title Concresco. While the book is currently sold out, some of Galjaard’s photographs of this extraordinary phenomenon can be viewed on his website.

Image: From the series Concresco, photography by David Galjaard, 2012. Courtesy David Galjaard.

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