15,000 tourists visited Tito’s bunker in Konjic last year

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Titov bunker FOTO: VELIJA HASANBEGOVIĆ

The D-0 ARK (Atomic War Command) facility, a former atomic shelter in Konjic, also known as Tito’s bunker, should get a new look and new content in a few months. This imposing concrete building represents a great tourist potential for Konjic, as well as the whole country. The fact that from March 1 to December 31 last year, 13,500 tourists from various parts of the world, but mostly from the countries of the region, who were impressed by the building and art installations set up inside, have visited the place, says Ajla Grade, director of the Agency for Economic Development “Prvi korak” from Konjic.

Unique Museum

After several years of dispute over the jurisdiction of the ARK facility, in the middle of February 2017, the Agency assumed the obligation to organize and coordinate all activities, from maintenance to presentation of the building, and the Municipality of Konjic took over the management of the facility. That opened the way for new investments and promotion of this, for decades kept state secret of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), as a tourist attraction.

Ajla Grade explains that in the past year they have been working on improving the quality of visits, as well as projects that want to improve the tourist offer. She points out that the project “Titova nadzemna rezidencija” is currently in the phase of realization, under which the reconstruction of the “camouflage” part of the D-0 ARK facility will be carried out. Reconstruction of wet nodes and arrangement of other rooms within the camouflage part of the building is planned, and all the above-mentioned works will be performed without disturbing the authenticity and functionality of the building itself. The yard of the ARK facility will be arranged as well.

A tour of the facility was not possible until 2011, when the BH Ministry of Defense proclaimed the facility an unmarked military property. With the implementation of the contemporary art project “Biennale D-0 ARK Underground”, which the Council of Europe declared, in the same year, the “cultural event” at the European level, the facility is open for visits, and since then the tour has been organized in different ways. After 2011, three more biennials were held, and today there are about 150 works by local and international artists who presented their works at the “Venice Biennale”, the world’s largest show of contemporary art.

This is considered to be the best collection of contemporary art in South East Europe, worth about eight million euros. By installing works of art within this atomic shelter built for the president of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, the object gained a new meaning as a hybrid military, historical and contemporary art museum. This caused the interest of the world public, and the world’s largest media announced the story of this project.

– Taking into account the uniqueness of the building, its ambience, historical significance at the local, regional and world level, it is clear to us that this is an exceptional potential, primarily in terms of tourism. The existing contract on maintenance and management of the facility expires at the end of 2018, and given that this facility has been declared non-prospective military property by the Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the tendency is that it will become the property of the local community – clarifies Grade for STAV.

The construction of the ARK complex began in 1953 and lasted for 26 years. It stretches to 6,854 square meters, and 4.6 billion US dollars has been invested in it, which was placed on the list of the largest investments in the former Yugoslavia, besides the Željava airport near Bihać and the port of Lora in Split. The constant air temperature in the entire building, built 300 meters below the ground, is 21 to 23 degrees. The shelter was supposed to serve to save important Presidency members and the executive authorities of Yugoslavia in the event of a nuclear attack. Monthly maintenance costs of the facility amount to an average of 15,000 BAM.

Tourist offer

– Regarding the plans for the future, we primarily want to maintain and improve the quality of visits, to approach each visitor with information about the things that interest them. Therefore, to those who are interested in the equipment and technique in the facility, history … There are also investments that we plan to implement, regarding repairs of the system itself in the facility, as well as facilities that are so called ‘camouflaged’ part of the building – Grade said, adding that this project represents the first phase in expanding the ARK tourist offer and creating conditions for opening a souvenir shop and cafeteria for visitors.

In order to promote the facility, as well as easier access to it, in cooperation with the Tourist Board of Herzegovina Neretva Canton, mapping of the road from Konjic to D-0 ARK, as well as the production of promotional materials was done. Ajla Grade says the plan is to promote the facility at domestic and international fairs.

In cooperation with the VNR Business Association from Norway, the website www.titosbunker.ba has been created, which contains all the information about the history of the building, terms of visits, ticket prices, and it is linked to the page of the Agency ‘Prvi korak’ www.prvikorak.ba. There is also a video on how to get to the site.

The shelter contains two tanks with 50 tons of oil, two types of climate, a swimming pool with 170 cubic meters of water, running water and technical one from a natural spring located in the mountain. Each system has an alternative in case the first one fails. Tito’s residence in this building is luxurious. It consists of five rooms. The secretary and party room leads to Tito’s office connected to the bedroom. There is a forced exit from the building that is not marked on the map. It leads to a hill above facility at 170-meter, where you can reach the relay hub on the Zlatar Mountain.