Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Tourists, Not Spies, Now Visit Formerly Super-Secret Soviet Facilities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 28 – Across the Soviet Union, there were hundreds if not thousands of facilities that ordinary people were not permitted to enter because they were part of the USSR’s national security sector. But after 1991, most were abandoned and then looted and are now visited by the criminal or the curious but not by foreign spies.

            The Russian X-Files website reports on four of them, one in Uzbekistan, one in Ukraine, one in Russia, and one in Latvia, all of which attracted metal hunters in the 1990s but now are tourist destinations, albeit sometimes involving those who do come in danger (x-files.site/articles.php?article_id=9181).

            The first of these is the former bio-engineering institute on Vozrozhdeniya Island in the former Aral Sea. It reportedly developed and produced biological weapons in Soviet times but with the passing of the USSR, it was closed. The buildings and some of the equipment remain but there has been much looting.

            The second is the reserve military bunker in Rostov Oblast from which senior Soviet officials would run a nuclear war if one broke out. It was made deep enough to survive a direct nuclear hit, and local people say that until nearly the end of the USSR, tests of nuclear weapons were carried out to show that the facility could withstand them.

            In 1993, the bunker was finally closed; and five years later, enterprising local people opened a museum there to attract visitors.

            The third site was known as Object 221 in Sevastopol. Begun in 1977, it was yet another bunker for commanders to retreat to in the event of nuclear war. Most of its equipment was stolen or vandalized in the early 1990s. Today, the site attracts only the curious and those trying to find metal objects they can sell.

            And the fourth is a bunker that existed in Soviet occupied Latvia in the Kekava forest. Abandoned in 1991, it flooded. But it still attracts visitors, despite the fact that highly poisonous heptyl fuel has leaked into the water there. It would be better, the site suggests, if people avoided sites like this one even now.

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