Albania’s Soviet-era sub awaits its fate, refusing to sink

Retired sergeant Neim Shehaj spends his days repairing a Soviet-era submarine, a witness to Albania’s tumultuous communist past that is now rusting, half-submerged, at an Adriatic naval base. The fate of the Cold War submarine at the Pashaliman base — from where Moscow once hoped to control the Mediterranean — hangs in the balance as authorities remain undecided over what to do. “This submarine is like a church to me… I arrived here as a young sailor and now my hair is grey,” Shehaj, 63, who served on it for about three decades, tells AFP. If the submarine is not taken out of the sea soon “it risks sinking to the bottom, and all its history with it”, he warns. The vessel was part of the so-called Project 613 consisting of the first submarines that the Soviet Union built after World War II.

It is the only remaining one out of 12 that Moscow deployed at the Pashaliman base in Vlora Bay in the late 1950s when Albania and the USSR were still close allies.