Communist Heritage Sites, Tirana

Communist Heritage Sites (Self Guided), Tirana

The people of Albania lived in a Communist state from 1976 through 1992. The country was ruled by one party, the Party of Labor of Albania. Dictator Enver Hoxha held power over the country and established a Stalinist-style of administration.

Citizens were oppressed by the secret police, known as the Sigurimi. They would spy on anyone who they believed to be an enemy of the state. Those who were suspected of being political opponents of the Labor Party were often interrogated, tortured, imprisoned or even killed.

Communism fell in Albania in 1991 when the first multi-party elections took place, though The People's Socialist Republic of Albania wasn't officially dissolved until a new constitution was adopted in 1998.

The memories of Communism in Albania are still very much alive in the memories of those who lived under the dictatorial rule of this repressive government. The new government strives to remind visitors of the horrors under this regime. They have done so by offering a number of spots that visitors can learn from and see.

The House of Leaves, also known as the Museum of Secret Service, provides deep insight into the spying and interrogation techniques of the Sigurimi. The National History Museum offers exhibits that cover a great deal of Albania's history that includes its dark days under Communism. BunkArt 2 is a museum and gallery that is located in a former bunker built by Enver Hoxha. These and many other places are important stops when touring the past communist sites in Tirana.

If you want to learn more about the history of Communism and how it shaped Albania, follow us on this Communist Heritage Sites walking tour.
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Communist Heritage Sites Map

Guide Name: Communist Heritage Sites
Guide Location: Albania » Tirana (See other walking tours in Tirana)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: rose
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • House of Leaves (Museum of Secret Surveillance)
  • National History Museum
  • Palace of Culture of Tirana
  • BunkArt 2
  • National Art Gallery
  • Pyramid
  • Postbllok Memorial
  • Former Residence of Enver Hoxha in Blloku
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House of Leaves (Museum of Secret Surveillance)

1) House of Leaves (Museum of Secret Surveillance)

The House of Leaves is a historical museum that honors those innocent people who were spied on and persecuted under the communist regime. It is dedicated to those who were convicted, tortured and executed in the name of communism. The museum is also known as the Museum of Secret Surveillance.

The House of Leaves is located in a two-story villa that was built in 1931. It was formerly an obstetrics clinic, but it was converted into a housing for the Gestapo during German occupation. Later, when communists took over the country, it was used as the headquarters for the Directorate of State Security, otherwise known as the Sigurimi.

The Sigurimi's stated goal was to maintain security in Albania. However, the Sigurimi's practice was much more sinister. The security, intelligence and secret police service that made up the Sigurimi worked to suppress political activity. They did this by spying on citizens, arresting them and, often, executing them if they were accused of non-conformity.

The 31-room museum opened in 2017. Visitors can see exhibits that cover listening devices, the story of the house, the laboratory, a view of everyday life and voices of the past, among others. The House of Leaves was given the European Museum of the Year Award by the Council of Europe in 2020.
2
National History Museum

2) National History Museum (must see)

The National History Museum was established in 1981. The museum contains over 5000 items in its permanent exhibits.

The museum includes eight pavilions that focus on different aspects of Albanian history. These include the pavilions of Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Independence, Communist Terror and the National Liberation Antifascist War. There are also pavilions dedicated to Iconography and Mother Teresa.

The National History Museum considers the Pavilion of Antiquity to be its most important. Items on display date from the 4th century BCE and go through the early middle ages, ending in the 8th century. Most of the items on display are sculptures like the God Apollo and the head of Artemis. Other important exhibits in this pavilion include the findings of the Monumental Tomb of Lower Selca and the mosaic of the Beauty of Durres.

Those who wish to learn more about the modern history of Albania can find plenty of materials at this museum. The Pavilion of Independence focuses on the most important historical moments in Albania after the Declaration of Independence in 1912 through the start of World War II.

The pavilions of antifascist war and communist terror display relics from those who died in the War of Vlora. Visitors can read about the war, find documents that show the protection of the Jewish population during the Holocaust, watch a documentary and view photographs.

The Pavilion of Mother Teresa contains exhibits that showcase the life and work of Mother Teresa. Visitors will see photos of Mother Teresa as well as objects that once belonged to her.
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Palace of Culture of Tirana

3) Palace of Culture of Tirana

The Palace of Culture of Tirana is a notable, historic building that now holds a theatre, shops and an art gallery. It was built as a gift from the Soviets with president Nikita Khrushchev symbolically laying the first brick. The building was completed in 1966.

The building is an example of Stalinist architecture. As such, it resembles many other buildings built in the mid-20th century in eastern Europe. As no renovations have taken place in the Palace of Culture, it retains the details that are indicative of communist architectural style. This is particularly true in the National Theatre.

The palace was built atop the historic mosque of Mahmud Muhsin Bey Stermasi, built in 1840. The mosque was destroyed under Enver Hoxha and the Albanian Labor Party in order to promote the communist ideal of state atheism. The old bazaar was also destroyed to make way for the palace.

The Palace of Culture includes the National Library of Albania and the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Albania.
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BunkArt 2

4) BunkArt 2 (must see)

BunkArt 2 is located in a large bunker in the center of Tirana near Skanderbeg Square. This bunker was intended for the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the communist regime. The museum exhibits life in the Albanian military and the work of the communist police. There is a strong focus on prisoners and work camps.

The bunker was constructed between 1981 and 1986. It consists of 24 rooms and one apartment to be used by the minister of the interior. It also has a large meeting hall that is now used to display exhibits. The bunker was code-named "Pillar Object" through the end of communist rule.

BunkArt 2 is just one of many bunkers built by Enver Hoxha. It is thought that he built more than 150,000 bunkers throughout the country. His fear of invasion from the United States and the Soviet Union caused him to have these bunkers built throughout his rule. It is thought that BunkArt 2 is the last of these.

Tourists are confronted by an audio recording when they enter BunkArt 2. This voiceover provides names of political prisoners who were victims of communist rule. The museum also has photographs and equipment that show the persecution of 100,000 Albanians under the communist regime.

BunkArt 2 offers three historical exhibits covering dates from 1913 to 1939, 1939 to 1944 and 1944 to 1991. There are also artistic installations throughout the bunker. Tourists will also see rooms dedicated to surveillance and investigation. Investigation could be conducted on anyone who was thought to be an enemy of the state; the type of room that was used for interrogation is part of the tour.

BunkArt 2 is open seven days per week from 9:30 AM to 8 PM.
5
National Art Gallery

5) National Art Gallery

The National Art Gallery is an art museum that is run under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. The museum, established in 1946, features over 5,000 works from famed Albanian artists and artists from abroad. The current venue opened in 1974 but is undergoing extensive renovation to be completed at the end of 2023.

The museum's permanent collection focuses on Albanian art and cultural matters. Its aim is to hold the most extensive and important documents and works of art that originated in Albania. It also strives to educate the public on matters of importance to Albanian history and culture.

The permanent collection focuses primarily on Socialist Realism Art. Examples of the socialist-era artwork found in the National Art Gallery include "The Bread Strike" by Skender Kamberi, " Voluntary work at the ‘Stalin’ textile factory" by Abdurrahmin Buza and "Portrait of a Worker" by Alush Shima.

The National Art Gallery is located on the Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard.

Opening hours:
Daily: 10 am-6 pm.
6
Pyramid

6) Pyramid

The Pyramid of Tirana is a structure that has served as a cultural center, museum and NATO base. It first opened in 1988 and closed in 1991 after the collapse of communism in the country.

The first museum held in the pyramid was the Enver Hoxha Museum. It showcased the legacy and history of Enver Hoxha, leader of Communist Albania who died in 1985. Designed in part by Hoxha's daughter, Pranvera Hoxha, it was the most expensive building ever built in Albania.

After the fall of communism, The Pyramid was briefly used as an exhibition center. It became a base of operations for NATO in 1999 during the War in Kosovo. Most of the pyramid has remained empty and has experienced some vandalism. There were plans to demolish the structure in 2017, but protests from citizens led to preservation and renovation instead.

The Pyramid is currently undergoing refurbishment so that it may be used as an IT center for youth. The TUMO Center, its new name, will give young people education on computer programming and robotics. It is also used as a broadcasting center for Top Channel and Top Albania Radio.
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Postbllok Memorial

7) Postbllok Memorial

Postbllok Memorial is an art installation that serves as a memorial to the atrocities experienced in the country at the hands of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania. The art installation was designed by Fatos Lubonja and Ardian Isufi in 2013.

The memorial is located in an area that was once the garden of Mehmet Shehu, communist politician and former prime minister. The neighborhood where the memorial sits is where many of the communist politicians built their homes. The fitting environment places the reminder that those who were in power during communist rule were the true enemies of the state.

The Postbllok Memorial is an art installation in three pieces. The first is a set of concrete girders, taken from Spac Prison, that are lined up to resemble the prison halls. The second is a portion of a bunker. The third is a piece of the Berlin Wall, which was a gift to Tirana from Berlin.
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Former Residence of Enver Hoxha in Blloku

8) Former Residence of Enver Hoxha in Blloku

The Former Residence of Enver Hoxha in Blloku is a three-story home that once belonged to Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. The interior is now closed to the general public, but a walk along the street shows the communist architecture that was so prevalent at the time.

Hoxha lived in this home for many decades until he was assassinated in 1985. During his life, the entire area around the home was sealed by police and secret agents, making it a mystery to citizens of the city. Hoxha's wife continued to live there for a number of years even after his death.

The interior of the home continues to carry the appearance that it did during Hoxha's life. The walls have socialist realist art. The doors to the bedrooms are still clad in soundproof cushioning. There is a pool in the basement and an escape door leading to an underground bunker.

Numerous televisions are located throughout the home. It is said that Hoxha and his wife would use these televisions to watch the torture of political opponents.

The home has been kept in place until a decision can be made about what to do with the location. Some have suggested using it as a museum while others are considering razing the structure to make way for a new era.

Walking Tours in Tirana, Albania

Create Your Own Walk in Tirana

Create Your Own Walk in Tirana

Creating your own self-guided walk in Tirana is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Tirana Introduction Walking Tour

Tirana Introduction Walking Tour

Tirana is Albania's largest city. It is also the country's center of culture and government. Though the city itself was founded by the Ottomans in 1614, its history goes back to earlier times.

The Romans settled in the area that would become Tirana in the 3rd century. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I built a castle that has some remnants left for tourists to see today. Tirana Castle,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 Km or 0.6 Miles