Salvador Andreu, better known as “Dr. Andreu,” was the wealthiest physician in Barcelona in the 1920s. He used the great fortune he accumulated by a pharmaceutical invention to purchase large plots of land, and catering to the growing wealthy Catalan bourgeoisie class, developed Tibidabo Avenue, an elegant avenue running along the city’s highest peak.
The broad, tree-lined avenue was modeled off European cities, and unlike any urbanized area in Barcelona at the time. Park spaces were parceled off for the enjoyment of the upper crust, who built majestic estates with beautiful panoramic views of the city along the avenue.
These modernist architectural gems still stand today, including the Andreu family’s own residence, which was at No. 17 Tibidabo Avenue, built in 1926 by the architect Enric Sagnier. Surprisingly, in 1928 Dr. Andreu died, and eight years later the Spanish Civil War broke out.
The empty residence was repurposed as the Soviet Union’s consulate in Barcelona, home to Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko.
The Soviet Union, under Stalin, was aiding the Republican forces fighting General Franco’s Nationalists. At this time bombings by the Italian fascist air force were frequent, and the Soviet embassy was an obvious target. So in 1937, a bunker was built on the property.
The diplomat Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko was posted to Barcelona, as Soviet Consul General, during the Spanish Civil War, where he directed the supply of Soviet aid to the Second Spanish Republic and where he organized the repressions against the Trotskyst-Marxist party POUM. The Soviet bunker was unique in that it was not just an emergency refuge but also built to be a place for the diplomats to continue their work during bombings
It had all the necessary amenities, including a kitchen, toilet, an electricity generator, which is still visible. There was a thick iron door and an emergency exit to the garden.
Stalin had a special interest in controlling Catalonia, where the anarchists and followers of Trotsky had strong influence and gathered political power. When Soviets gained control of Barcelona, agents of the NKVD (the political police) used top floor of the Andreu mansion as a communications center. According to the book The Barcelona Underground by Mireia Valls, the palace of Dr. Andreu was connected by tunnels to the nearby Tamarita house, where there was a prison used by the Soviets.
Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko was recalled to Moscow in August 1937 where he talked with Joseph Stalin about the events in Spain. After a month without a job he was appointed People’s Commissar for Justice of the Russian SFSR in September 1937, but after just one month in post, he was arrested during the night of 11-12 October 1937. Under interrogation, he behaved with great courage. He was shot the 10th of February 1938.
After the war, the Andreu family sold the building to private company, and it is currently owned by Mutua Universal. Visitors can arrange guided visit of the bunker.
Urban Exploring rating:
Trespassing Status – Guided Visit after approval
Accessibility – ③∕⑩
Dangers Level/Risk – ①∕⑩
Spooky Level – ④/⑩
Urbex Level – ③/⑩ – Beginners
Fun – ⑩/⑩
Total: 4.2 / 10
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