Permalink to A Beautiful–and Horrible–Little Film

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.

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Members have made 28 comments.

  1. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    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.

    • #1
    • January 20, 2013 at 4:05 am
  2. Profile photo of John H. Inactive

    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!”

    • #2
    • January 20, 2013 at 6:58 am
  3. Profile photo of Scott Abel Member
    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.

    • #3
    • January 20, 2013 at 7:35 am
  4. Profile photo of Scott Abel Member
    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?
    • #4
    • January 20, 2013 at 7:36 am
  5. Profile photo of Eric Jablow Inactive

    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.

    • #5
    • January 20, 2013 at 8:17 am
  6. Profile photo of Vance Richards Member

    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.

    • #6
    • January 20, 2013 at 8:33 am
  7. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

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

    • #7
    • January 20, 2013 at 8:43 am
  8. Profile photo of DocJay Member
    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.

    • #8
    • January 20, 2013 at 8:58 am
  9. Profile photo of Concretevol Thatcher
    Aaron Miller: Can we expect your Cold War book before the apocalypse, Peter? · 31 minutes ago

    Same question!

    • #9
    • January 20, 2013 at 9:27 am
  10. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member
    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. 😉

    • #10
    • January 20, 2013 at 9:41 am
  11. Profile photo of George Savage Admin

    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.

    • #11
    • January 20, 2013 at 10:01 am
  12. Profile photo of Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author
    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.

    • #12
    • January 20, 2013 at 11:36 am
  13. Profile photo of Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author
    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.)

    • #13
    • January 20, 2013 at 11:58 am
  14. Profile photo of CoolHand Inactive

    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!?!

    • #14
    • January 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm
  15. Profile photo of kylez Member

    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

    • #15
    • January 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm
  16. Profile photo of genferei Member

    Paul Krugman would approve.

    • #16
    • January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm
  17. Profile photo of Scott Abel Member
    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.
    • #17
    • January 21, 2013 at 1:00 am
  18. Profile photo of Keith Preston Member
    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.

    • #18
    • January 21, 2013 at 2:08 am
  19. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    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.

    • #19
    • January 21, 2013 at 4:48 am
  20. Profile photo of MSJL Thatcher
    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.

    • #20
    • January 21, 2013 at 8:33 am
  21. Profile photo of Zach Franzen Inactive

    My parents were missionaries in Albania for twelve years. They lived in Bulqize, which is largely Muslim now. Many Albanians are comfortable with the vision of power shared by communism and Islam. They are also (at least in the mountains) fiercely nationalistic. Hoxha had the country believing that they had the highest standard of living in Europe and because Albanians were so isolated there was nothing to contradict him (You could get jail time just for listening to a western radio station). When the communist government failed, the whole country had to adjust to the reality that they were much poorer than the rest of Europe. When I was in Tirane in the 90s, there were two stoplights in the whole city. It’s their capital city. Today it’s quite developed and looks almost modern. Southern Albania is also quite pretty, but in the north it’s very rural. Muslim states are pouring a lot of money in the building of mosques in Albania. Many are largely empty, but the effort is to dominate the skyline and marry their national perception to a love for Islam.

    • #21
    • January 21, 2013 at 9:30 am
  22. Profile photo of Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author
    MSJL 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. · 2 hours ago

    Beautifully stated, MSJL. That’s the critical point. Under Communism, insane paranoia is mandatory.

    • #22
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:00 am
  23. Profile photo of Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author
    Zach Franzen: My parents were missionaries in Albania for twelve years. They lived in Bulqize, which is largely Muslim now. Many Albanians are comfortable with the vision of power shared by communism and Islam. They are also (at least in the mountains) fiercely nationalistic. Hoxha had the country believing that they had the highest standard of living in Europe and because Albanians were so isolated there was nothing to contradict him (You could get jail time just for listening to a western radio station). When the communist government failed, the whole country had to adjust to the reality that they were much poorer than the rest of Europe. When I was in Tirane in the 90s, there were two stoplights in the whole city. It’s their capital city. Today it’s quite developed and looks almost modern. Southern Albania is also quite pretty, but in the north it’s very rural. Muslim states are pouring a lot of money in the building of mosques in Albania. Many are largely empty, but the effort is to dominate the skyline and marry their national perception to a love for Islam. · 1 hour ago

    Thanks for posting this, Zach. Just fascinating. 

    • #23
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:01 am
  24. Profile photo of Frederick Key Inactive

    I first read about these apocalypse shrooms in a piece P.J. O’Rourke wrote, having traveled to ALbania as its economy was tanking–it had apparently reacted to capitalism by setting up everything, private and public, like a Ponzi scheme.

    You just don’t know where to start with some places.

    (O’Rourke’s piece was reprinted in the wonderfully named Eat the Rich.) 

    • #24
    • January 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm
  25. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    Hoxha and Ceausescu , couple of real sweethearts there . No wonder that Tito looked good.

    Love to hear what Pacepa thinks of Hoxha. His book about Rumania is amazing. The film about Ceausescu is bleakly understated ,but anybody with a camera or pencil was probably suspect. 

    Hoxha ran a tight bloody ship as well, some of these monsters will go under-reported as they drew the curtains around their countries and their activities very tightly. And then the international press acquiesced of course, this was Uncle Joe’s experiment…over to you Mr Duranty.

    • #25
    • January 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm
  26. Profile photo of John H. Inactive
    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. And this gives me two ideas.

    One is to write about how countries cope with distinctly unheroic recent pasts. Being American and therefore lucky, I am highly unqualified for the job. But I could venture some observations on Latin American countries, and also Slovenia.

    The other idea is really a guess: if being an American actually becomes a qualification for undertaking such a series, if the worst dreams of the most pessimistic contributors here come true, and the U.S. itself becomes a dictatorship, then those contributors will not simply say Hey we did all we could, we are guiltless, but castigate themselves for not doing more. They will accept some blame for what America became. I know I would.

    • #26
    • January 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm
  27. Profile photo of lakelylane Inactive

    Thanks, Peter…a very twisted ugly beautiful testiment.

    • #27
    • January 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm
  28. Profile photo of Scott Abel Member
    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. · 10 hours ago

    They might have gotten an upgrade since then; I’ve never encountered a toilet, but it’s entirely realistic; a lot of them are just empty. I saw some that were used as sheds. At least the Albanians have a sense of humor about them. In populated areas, you’ll find a lot of them with funky paintjobs; even hats. These mushroom-machine gun nests will be there 500 years from now. They’re incredibly hard to destroy. Probably the last survivor of communism in the future.

    • #28
    • January 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm