by Giulia Blocal (article + photo by Blocal Travel)
It took me so long to publish this post! In my defense, I’ve been looking for someone who worked at one of the most important factories in Albania, the big industrial centre of Kombinati Metalurgjik near the town of Elbasan, to bring you a first-hand story about this huge industrial area, now charmingly abandoned (a truly amusement park for industrial archaeology lovers!). But after reaching no less than the Albanian ambassador himself, as well as many other Albanian friends, and getting nowhere fast, I eventually took the decision of publishing it like this, sharing with you my pictures and some information I was able to find online.
Kombinati Metalurgjik was the most ambitious project undertaken by the communist regime for the industrialization of Albania and the former dictator Enver Hoxha was so proud of this industrial centre producing iron and steel to refer to its creation as “the second liberation of Albania”.
The construction of the site started in 1962 and continued for about 25 years, with an especially fast growth in the period of 1968-1980. Given Enver Hoxha’s mania of grandeur, the final arrangement of the site covered 155 hectares and included many different kinds of plants, from the cement factory to the carbonate materials factory, but also coal coking ovens, cast-iron plants and wood plants, all connected by 47 kilometers of internal railway and 22 miles of paved roads.
About 12.000 people worked here and after the raise of Kombinati Metalurgjik the nearby town of Elbasan tripled its number of inhabitants.
This huge metallurgical complex worked as a single unit until 1990, when the economic transition brought a series of difficulties; free trade caused the bankruptcy of many plants, which ceased to exist. Only a few plants are still operating: the steelworks and the oxygen factory, which have been sold to a Turkish company.
Now the site is a heaven for industrial archaeology lovers! I visited many abandoned factories, but I’ve never been in such a huge abandoned industrial complex before. Modern ruins extend as far as the eye can see and you can easily go from one area to another by driving along Kombinati Metalurgjik internal roads.
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