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A Beautiful–and Horrible–Little Film

Looking for something to watch this evening?  With, perhaps, some historical interest?  Try “Mushrooms of Concrete,” a brief documentary–it lasts less than half an hour–this is both beautiful and heartbreaking

The mushrooms in question are the three-quarters of a million of domed concrete bunkers that the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha constructed in Albania during the more than four decades of his rule.  Yes, three quarters of a million bunkers–in a tiny, poor, backward country, of fewer than three million inhabitants that no other nation ever evinced any interest in invading.

Twenty-five minutes on the beauty of a country enfolded in the mountains on the Adriatic, the dignity of ordinary people–and the madness of Communism.

  1. James Of England

    I occasionally talk about the need for conservatives to be more involved in editing wikipedia. One area where conservatives (not me; I studied, and broadly agreed with, some of Hoxha’s doctrinal criticisms of Stalin and Mao, but I don’t know much about Albanian history) have fought and severely lost is Hoxha’s bio. Read this openly admiring page and be reminded that out there in the ether, there are genuinely horrible ideologies kept alive and prospering in their corners.

    Comment #1 also reminds us, of course, and the page is only openly admiring if you put yourself in the mindset of someone who would admire Hoxha; if I recall correctly, before the skirmishes its praises were a little less dog whistled. Still, I think it’s worth skimming parts of it.

    It does remind me that, in Hoxha’s defense, Yugoslavia might have invaded, as might the Soviets. They certainly both had means, motive, and the requisite level of scruples. The problem with the bunkers is that they’re totally impractical, the mark of a deranged man, not that the evil regime had no reason to fear the evils of others.

  2. John H.

    I wouldn’t describe Albanians as ordinary people. I’d describe them as people who built a bunch of concrete mushrooms. Hoxha didn’t do it all by himself. Dictatees must share some blame for what goes in their countries, and there must come a point in every dictator’s career when he exclaims, to himself or maybe even out loud, “Man, this is easier than I thought!”

  3. Scott Abel
    Thanks for the link, Peter. I’ve been to Albania several times, and know the mushrooms well.

    My love for Albania is such that I proposed to my Estonian wife there. It’s an awesome country, and some of the best people you can meet in Europe. The mountains in the south and the shoreline is better than anything you can find pretty much anywhere. Will go again.

  4. Scott Abel
    John H.: I wouldn’t describe Albanians as ordinary people. I’d describe them as people who built a bunch of concrete mushrooms. Hoxha didn’t do it all by himself. Dictatees must share some blame for what goes in their countries, and there must come a point in every dictator’s career when he exclaims, to himself or maybe even out loud, “Man, this is easier than I thought!” · 37 minutes ago

    Uh, huh. So, Estonians are to blame as well for 50 years of dictatorship?
  5. Eric Jablow

    The site hosting this documentary has some pretty noisome films too. Consider this description:

    Hitler’s War: What the Historians Neglect to Mention. - This is a 96 minute long “Made in Germany” underground documentary film. It’s the first documentary ever to unabashedly explain from the German perspective, how World War II really began, and the many efforts that were made by Hitler to avoid it, and to establish a lasting, viable and mutually acceptable peace, but how he was ultimately left with no choice but to invade Poland.

    I feel unclean just posting that here.

  6. Vance Richards

    My wife went on a short-term mission trip to Albania in the early 90′s. She said most of the “concrete mushrooms” she saw were being used as make shift toilets.

  7. Aaron Miller

    Can we expect your Cold War book before the apocalypse, Peter?

  8. DocJay
    Eric Jablow: The site hosting this documentary has some pretty noisome films too. Consider this description:

    Hitler’s War: What the Historians Neglect to Mention. - This is a 96 minute long “Made in Germany” underground documentary film. It’s the first documentary ever to unabashedly explain from the German perspective, how World War II really began, and the many efforts that were made by Hitler to avoid it, and to establish a lasting, viable and mutually acceptable peace, but how he was ultimately left with no choice but to invade Poland.

    I feel unclean just posting that here. · 29 minutes ago

    Yeah, that’s a Jim Carrey, Einhorn is a man, toilet plunger cleanse moment in movie previews.    I think I’ll check out the mushrooms instead.

  9. Concretevol
    Aaron Miller: Can we expect your Cold War book before the apocalypse, Peter? · 31 minutes ago

    Same question!

  10. Aaron Miller
    Vance Richards: My wife went on a short-term mission trip to Albania in the early 90′s. She said most of the “concrete mushrooms” she saw were being used as make shift toilets.

    That sounds like a potential tourist industry. I bet there are many people in the world who would pay money to dump on communism. ;)

  11. George Savage

    Beautiful cinematography.  Thanks for posting, Peter.

    Albania must be the epicenter of some sort of paranoia field, one extending well beyond the country’s boundaries.  Last summer, while jogging around the harbor in Pula, Croatia, I found myself in the middle of an abandoned Soviet-era base.  Twenty-plus years after the end of the Cold War and the dilapidated guard towers, rusting razor wire–even the overgrown soccer field–gave off a creepy, everyone-left-a-moment-ago vibe.

  12. Peter Robinson
    C
    James Of England: 

    It does remind me that, in Hoxha’s defense, Yugoslavia might have invaded, as might the Soviets. They certainly both had means, motive, and the requisite level of scruples. The problem with the bunkers is that they’re totally impractical, the mark of a deranged man, not that the evil regime had no reason to fear the evils of others. · 7 hours ago

    There is zero evidence of which I’m aware that the Soviets ever considered invading Albania.  (They would have had to cross Yugoslavia to do so, never an option.)  They lost a naval installation when Albania switched its allegiances from the Soviets to the Chinese, but they simply…let it go.

    Tito in Yugoslavia would of course have represented a more plausible threat, but as far as I have ever been able to tell, he more than had his hands full controlling the Albanian and Greek elements in Macedonia–and in any event never had any good reason to tie up his armed forces in invading a dirt-poor nation of no strategic importance.  But if you’re aware of episodes suggesting otherwise, I’d love to hear about them.

  13. Peter Robinson
    C
    Aaron Miller: Can we expect your Cold War book before the apocalypse, Peter? · 3 hours ago

    My new goal:  To complete the book in no more time than the Cold War itself lasted.  (That gives me another four decades.)

  14. CoolHand

    Just think, in another 40 years or so, some earnest young thing can tour our countrysides, interviewing grizzled old men and broken young men while they show them the remains of the giant concrete and steel Healthcare Exchanges, complete with rotting concertina wire and mangled rebar.

    Won’t that be fun!?!

  15. kylez

    So before you are 100?

    Peter Robinson

    Aaron Miller: Can we expect your Cold War book before the apocalypse, Peter? · 3 hours ago

    My new goal:  To complete the book in no more time than the Cold War itself lasted.  (That gives me another four decades.) · 9 minutes ago

  16. genferei

    Paul Krugman would approve.

  17. Scott Abel
    John H.

    EstoniaKat

    John H.: …Dictatees must share some blame for what goes in their countries…

    So, Estonians are to blame as well for 50 years of dictatorship? 

    I see “must share some” got turned into “are to” and I am tempted to opine on the practices taught in American J-schools, but darn it I won’t. If one will but accept my original phrasing, then yes, Estonians, having been dictatees, must share some blame. Not 100%; but not 0% either.

    So, you get invaded by the Soviets, then the Nazis, and the Soviets (again), and you have a population half the size of Kansas City, you share the blame. Just askin’ for it. Maybe not in total, but you’re still complicit in some fashion. Hey, it’s total rubbish John H, but at least it’s an ethos.
  18. Keith Preston
    Vance Richards: My wife went on a short-term mission trip to Albania in the early 90′s. She said most of the “concrete mushrooms” she saw were being used as make shift toilets. · 4 hours ago

    careful when saying the phrase “make-shift toilets.”  You could violate the Ricochet COC.

  19. James Of England
    Peter Robinson

    James Of England: 

    There is zero evidence of which I’m aware that the Soviets ever considered invading Albania.  (They would have had to cross Yugoslavia to do so, never an option.)…..

    Tito in Yugoslavia would of course have represented a more plausible threat, but as far as I have ever been able to tell, he more than had his hands full…. and in any event never had any good reason to…..

    I agree that there was never a moment when an intervention a la Hungary/ Prague was imminent or likely, but it is the nature of these things that you don’t get much warning, and it takes a lot of time and effort to make a properly insane preparation.

    In terms of capability, the Soviets had both considerable naval and amphibious capabilities and more than enough air transport capacity to supply an occupying force sufficient for Albania, which is not enormous.There is also the chance that whatever caused the crisis that precipitated the invasion might offend the Yugoslavs, too.

    Yugoslavian preoccupation with Macedonian Albanians could easily have formed an for, rather than against, invasion. Recall Saddam unifying Iraqi shiites behind him by invading Iran.

  20. MSJL
    James Of England

    Peter Robinson

    James Of England: 

    There is zero evidence of which I’m aware that the Soviets ever considered invading Albania.  (They would have had to cross Yugoslavia to do so, never an option.)…..

    I agree that there was never a moment when an intervention a la Hungary/ Prague was imminent or likely, but it is the nature of these things that you don’t get much warning, and it takes a lot of time and effort to make a properly insane preparation.

    Of course there wasn’t a credible threat of invasion; Hoxha didn’t need one to jump down this rabbit hole.  Let’s not forget that a high state of imposed paranoia is the coin of the realm for totalitarian states.  It becomes the justification for everything else.

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