TIRANA: The massive, top secret Cold War nuclear bunker of former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha was opened to the public on Saturday, decades after it was built by the paranoid communist regime fearing an attack by the West that never came.
The ex-dictator’s bed, covered with a red mattress, is still in place in his bunker bedroom, with a Soviet-era radio placed on his bedside table.
During Hoxha’s 40-year rule, Albania was one of the world’s most isolated countries, obsessed about an attack by the West.
Now, 24 years after the fall of the regime, its countryside is still dotted by the remains of some 700,000 bunkers. Officials have said the structures, referred to as “mushrooms” by locals, were built to be indestructible and defend against an army of millions.
According to informed sources, Hoxha, who died in 1985, had at least four secret refuges built for him and his family around Tirana.
Built into the side of a mountain just east of the capital Tirana, the 2,685 square metre (28,900 square foot) underground shelter opened Saturday sprawls over five levels and contains 106 rooms, including a cinema.
Built covertly between 1972-1978, it was designed to serve as the headquarters of the central committee and the communist assembly in the event of war.
A guide at the opening described it as a “real five-star” complex.
“We have decided to open everything up,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama after visiting the site.
“The idea to build it arose after a visit (by Hoxha) to North Korea in 1964,” said defence ministry spokesperson Edlira Prendi.
Until recently the giant bunker still featured on an Albanian army “top secret” list, she added.
The bunker will be placed under the care of the tourism and culture ministry, and will also host a museum and an exhibition space for artists.