Photographer and Professor Jeremiah Gilbert is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From the project ‘Tirana’s Communist Past’. To see Jeremiah ’s body of work, click on any image.
Underneath Tirana, capital city of Albania, there is a five-story bunker of narrow hallways and over 100 rooms. The shelter was built in the 1970s under the direction of Enver Hoxha, the communist leader of Albania for over four decades. What was intended to provide protection for Hoxha and his cabinet in the event of a nuclear attack is now a mixed-use art and culture center, with a focus on preserving and remembering the dark years under Hoxha’s rule.
Known as Bunk’Art 1, 24 rooms of the expansive shelter have been converted into a history museum and art gallery. Inside are living quarters and meeting rooms, presented as they would have been at the time. One room, originally Hoxha’s own office, even plays his voice on a loop if you pick up the phone receiver and listen.
Hoxha died a few years before the bunker was completed, and it was never actually put into use. It was entirely unknown to the public until its conversion into a museum and arriving at the bunker requires going through a long, dark tunnel in the hillside that leads to the entrance on the side of a still-active Albanian military base.
While Bunk’Art 1 is located on the eastern edge of Tirana, Bunk’Art 2 is situated within a communist-era bunker and underground tunnel system below the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the center of town. It focuses on the role of the police and security services in Albania through the turbulent 20th century. During its construction, the dome that marks the entrance to the museum was damaged by groups who saw it as a glorification of Hoxha’s dictatorship. The decision was made not to repair the damage, establishing its place as part of Albania’s collective memory.
All images and text © Jeremiah Gilbert
By Jeremiah Gilbert
Jeremiah ’s Previous Contributions To Edge Of Humanity Magazine