Whilst staying in Albania’s capital Tirana, we visited two relatively new ‘museums’, “Bunk’Art 1”:http://bunkart.al/1/home (opened in 2014) and “Bunk’Art 2”:http://bunkart.al/2/home (opened in 2016), to learn more about its communist past (1944 to 1992).
Bunk’Art 2 reconstructs the history of the Albanian Ministry of Internal Affairs from 1912 to 1991 and reveals the secrets of ‘Sigurimi’, or secret police. “Bunk’Art 1”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review?id=202055 is dedicated to the history of the communist army and the daily lives of Albanians during the regime.
Bunk Art’2, in the city centre, was easily found opposite an ornate red and yellow building with a big bunker acting as the entrance. Opening times are from 9am to 9pm and as over 60s, the standard ticket of 500 Lek/£3.75 was discounted to 300 Lek: no evidence was required. Audio guides were available, but we found excellent information panels in English and Albanian.
The site consists of 24 rooms, an apartment for the Minister of Internal Affairs and a large hall dedicated to intercommunications. Steps took us underground to the various displays. Rooms with guns had reassuring signs telling us that weapons had been decommissioned and were safe, whilst others had ‘sensitive warnings’ when the subject matter was a little dark.
One room contained a model of a man wearing a padded jacket being pursued by dogs, illustrating how escapees would have been hunted down, whilst in another, cards hung down from the ceiling on strings bearing the names of those who’d died.
Spying was prevalent and a replica of a house showed how a cable would be run through the bricks from the adjoining house if occupants were suspected of anti-communist activities. Nowhere appeared safe to talk.
We saw telephones that would only receive calls and read about the methods used to track people suspected of sending anonymous letters criticising the state. A list explained the methods of torture used.
One room had a bed and the outer secretarial room contained red, white and black telephones and an ancient looking computer. This room was ‘used’ 3 times when threats from civilians rioting were in the offing although they never materialised.
‘Pastry men’ were said to have destroyed classified documents by putting them in an industrial dough maker, mixing them with water and then dumping the mixture in the river. Each pastry man was said to be able to annihilate 800kg of paper per hour.
Photographs were often manipulated and with the aid of a magnifying glass we saw four examples. In one, a face had been cut from one photo and put on a different body, in another, a person’s body had been inserted into a photo of a meeting.
We learned that during the regime, tourist numbers were restricted and men with long hair and sideburns or women wearing miniskirts would not have been allowed into the country.
This is not a museum for the feint hearted but it was refreshing to see Albania acknowledging its past despite its horrors.