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Albania opens Communist-era nuclear bunker to public

IANS 29 Nov 2014, 6:48:32 AM IST

Tirana: The Albanian government has opened to the public the country's biggest Communist-era nuclear bunker, a secret symbol of the 40-year Cold War and the extravagances of the Communist regime.

Up to 6,000 people from Albania and other countries have visited this mysterious fortress, which has been turned into a historical and artistic site going by the name of "Bunk Art."

Mira Sinanaj, one of the bunker's many visitors, told Efe that she found it astonishing to learn that the secret tunnel people used to hear about is now open to the general public.

She also questioned the reasons for the secrecy surrounding the bunker until now.

Petrit, a native of the southern city of Fier, said that despite having lived under communism, he never thought "to see something as magnificent as Bunker Art", a five-story palace built into a mountain to protect former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha" at a time when his ordinary subjects suffered from hunger.

The director of the Albanian National Agency for Tourism, Julinda Dhame, told Efe that the agency wanted "to turn the bunker into a tourist attraction, along with the other still-hidden secret tunnels deep inside Mount Dajti".

The bomb shelter was secretly built between 1972 and 1978 in this mountain located to the east of Tirana, with the aim of protecting the regime's political and military elites in case of atomic attack.

After Albania ended its alliance with the Soviet Union in 1960 and with China in 1978, dictator Enver Hoxha lived in constant fear of attack, so he built 500 shelters throughout the country, placing a heavy burden on the nation's already-fragile economy.

Since then Albania became the most isolated heavily-militarised European country, with more than 100 underground tunnels designed to shelter large amounts of military equipment including submarines, aircraft and tanks.