During the nearly forty-year leadership of Enver Hoxha of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania, over 700,000 bunkers were built in the country – one for every four inhabitants. The bunkers (Albanian: bunkerët) are still a ubiquitous sight in Albania, with an average of 24 bunkers for every square kilometre of the country.
Hoxha’s programme of “bunkerisation” resulted in the construction of bunkers in every corner of Albania, from mountain passes to city streets. They had little military value and were never used for their intended purpose during the years of Communist rule (1945–1990). The cost of constructing them was a drain on Albania’s resources, diverting them away from more pressing needs, such as dealing with the country’s housing shortage and poor roads.
The bunkers were abandoned following the collapse of communism in 1990. Most are now derelict, though some have been reused for a variety of purposes including residential accommodation, cafés, storehouses and shelters for animals or the homeless. A few briefly saw use in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s