Albania: New bunker unsettles Tirana residents

Bunkers on a beach being removed Image copyright AFP
Image caption There have been efforts in recent years to remove some bunkers, including these near the city of Fier

A new bunker being constructed in Albania's capital city is causing disquiet among some residents, who associate it with the country's communist past.

The bunker is taking shape in the centre of Tirana, close to the interior ministry, but so far Albania's left-wing government has remained quiet on why it's being built, according to the Balkan Insight news website. Some local media reports suggest it's intended as a tourist attraction or art. The construction bears a striking resemblance to the 700,000 circular bunkers built across Albania during the 40-year rule of dictator Enver Hoxha, who feared attacks from both the Soviet Union and the West.

That history has left some people concerned that the new addition is a reflection of growing nostalgia for the communist era, Balkan Insight says. The opposition Democratic Party has organised protests at the building site to call for construction to be halted, with some protesters trying to remove the structure themselves. Video footage of one protest shows a group of riot police being deployed to protect the site.

While for many Albanians the bunkers are an uncomfortable reminder of the past, several have been converted for modern-day use. Some sites have housed shops, restaurants, and even a music festival. Last year, a huge underground complex close to the capital was opened to the public for the first time, with the government saying it planned to use the space as a museum and for art exhibitions.

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