TIRANA, — A gigantic, secret bunker that Albania’s communist regime built underground decades ago to survive a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union or the United States has been opened to the public for the first time.The bunker was built by the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha near Tirana. His regime was one of the 20th century’s most repressive, persecuting the large Greek and Orthodox Christian minorities.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Edi Rama led visitors, including Western ambassadors, on a tour of the never used 106-room, five-story bunker.
“We have opened today a thesaurus of the collective memory that presents thousands of pieces of the sad events and life” under communism,” Rama said, speaking at the bunker’s 200-seat hall, which was to serve as the meeting place for parliament.
Hoxha built the bunker the capital, in the 1970s to prepare for a possible nuclear attack by “American imperialism or Soviet social-imperialism.” Hoxha, whose regime built up to 700,000 bunkers of different sizes and tunnels all around the country, died in 1985. The communist regime was toppled in 1990.
Rama said the bunker was opened ahead of Albania’s World War II liberation day this month. The government plans to use it as a tourist attraction and an exhibition space for artists.
On display before the bunker, which has been preserved by the military, stood a Soviet-produced Zim-12 luxury car, a gift to Hoxha from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
The bunker, 100-meters (330 feet) underground, houses a museum with pictures and items from World War II and the communist regime. The heavy cement and metal doors are so low that visitors have to bow down to pass through them.
In the small, cold and smelly rooms one can see military equipment used by the communist regime, mainly received from the Soviet Union and China.
Work on the bunker was completed in 1978, when Tirana broke ties with China. Albania had done that with the Soviets in 1962.
LLAZAR SEMINI, Associated Press