The Soviet “nuclear shield”. Abandoned Strategic Rocket Forces military base
One dark autumn night, when I was enjoying a cup of coffee and looking through some photos, my friend Dima messaged me saying that he had accidentally discovered a rather big and interesting abandoned site. We started studying satellite images and the more I looked at the map the more I was convinced that this was definitely not a cowshed or a cell company facility but something really exciting. After we did some research we found out that the site was nothing else but a deserted missile corps military base, the remains of the famous “nuclear shield”.
As a rule, it is nearly impossible to find information about facilities like this one: despite the fact that Belarus gave up its nuclear weapons in 1993 and a complete disarmament followed, an atmosphere of secrecy and almost mystical fear surrounds such objects. Some nuggets of information can be extracted from memoirs written by soldiers who used to serve there. That was the kind of search we conducted, successfully finding out purpose and function of nearly every building on the site.
By the way, rockets forces were one of the most dangerous army subdivisions to serve in. Soldiers were often in a direct contact with radioactive materials, pungent rocket oxidizer and an extremely dangerous rocket fuel component heptyl, a chemical that has a negative effect on literally every part of the human body. Although a long time has passed since the object was abandoned, I wouldn’t recommend actually going inside of the missile pits.
As for today’s trip, we didn’t come across any pits; they are probably somewhere in the vicinity. So, let’s get rolling.
The facility consists of quite a large number of various buildings and structures. They occupy a territory approximately 300×400 m in area (1000×1300 ft). The first building on the right side of the road is the command center. The site apparently has been abandoned a very long time ago. The grounds are overgrown with young aspens.
Inside the command center everything is either broken or stolen. In some places, even the flooring is missing.
Remains of furniture in the hallways.
A room inside the command center. I can imagine officers that used to sit here swelling with importance while studying top secret maps of the “potential enemy” of the USSR.
A warehouse near the canteen. There is an al fresco painting on a side wall that says “The people and the army are one”. The painting depicts a soldier, a steelmaker, Vladimir Lenin who looks like he has some weird skin disease and a ship at sea for some reason.
Inside the warehouse we saw hundreds of clothing items piled on the floor: old cotton wadded jackets, ushankas, service caps and other military garments. It smells like mouldy rags and some kind of small insects are swarming around the clothes.
The lower sign says “shirts”.
The army canteen.
Let’s see what’s inside. On the wall we can see the last day’s dinner menu written down using lettering guides. “Breakfast: macaroni, braised meat, tea. Lunch: beet salad, rice soup.”
Dining hall with mosaic sickle and hammer.
Hot meal preparation room.
I wonder why the ceilings here are so unusually high. The floor-to-ceiling height is about 6.5 m (21 ft)
The pantry door. That’s probably where they kept the barley that the soldiers ate.
The building as seen from the back.
The building on the left is where the officers used to eat. It is slightly smaller than the soldiers’ canteen.
On the inside they look about the same. This photo shows a side room, probably some kind of store-room.
The entrance to the washing house.
The steam room.
Broken glass tiles in the changing room.
The boiler station that was used for heating the entire base.
Inside the building everything is in ruins. The locals keep taking away fire-brick little by little for their own needs.
One of the dangerous places – a side room in the boiler station. In the far end of the room there is something that looks like a concrete pool of unknown depth filled up with black bitumen.
Let’s move on. This is the garage. It probably used to house missile hauling vehicles – huge 16-wheeled trucks that move missiles around.
A wheel. It obviously wasn’t installed on a missile hauling vehicle – the protector is unfit for concrete roads.
Everything is covered in green moss (it’s probably radioactive – ok, just kidding!).
Open doors of the garage.
Inside we found a poster showing how to use light chemical protection suits correctly. Soldiers would wear these while working in the missile pits. They are essential when dealing with heptyl and rocket oxidizer. They would also put on OBA gas masks — the ones with rebreather technology.
In the adjacent garage we suddenly stumbled upon a grain harverster combine! That’s where that wheel came from. It is absolutely unclear how the machine got here in the first place. Take a look at the ceiling – it is pitch black. At the same time there are no signs of a serious fire on the walls and on the floor. I think the reason is the people who steal copper wires from the base and then burn wiring isolation off them.
A view of the garage.
A unit with unclear function. Looks like a small storage. Since it’s not far from the garage it might have been a plumber’s shop.
On the floor of the hallway we found a child’s shoe for some reason, which made me remember the abandoned houses of Chernobyl. How did it wind up here, at a strategic nuclear site?
The movie hall.
This building is rather different from the other sturdily built military structures on the site. It’s a wooden barrack padded with glass wool. I think this building might have been built by soldiers themselves.
That’s what it looks like inside.
Site medical facility.
In-patient treatment wards.
The second floor.
The stairs. Obviously, the handrails have been stolen a long time ago. I wonder who took them.
The view of the canteen from the medical facility.
Soldiers’ barracks. We are not going in yet, we’ll save the best for last. So we head to the right.
On the other side of the road there is this building. It’s something like a repair shop or a maybe a diesel generator plant.
Inside the building looks like a hangar.
On the ceiling there are metal cross-bars of a crane mechanism that was used to take heavy engines off vehicles or something like that.
Remains of such an engine – an enormous and extremely heavy cylinder block.
A road at the far end of the site.
It leads up to these well-concealed storage units. The doors are locked, anything could have been stored in there up to actual nuclear warheads.
There is a fire station not far from the road.
The side door.
Soldiers’ autographs and wiring ducts cut open – that’s how copper wiring gets stolen. That is what had been burned in the garage where we found the combine harvester.
Now let’s get back to the soldiers’ barracks.
They consist of two absolutely identical buildings.
The entrance. There is a sign on the door saying which company used to occupy the barrack.
A sign with personal hygiene regulations written on it.
The arms room. The racks that you can see on the floor used to hold guns, and the shelving units were probably used for keeping en bloc clips. The room is located close to the entrance.
Some kind of accounting records.
The dorm. There is only one of these on each floor. The soldiers probably slept on bunk beds.
A shoe cleaning box. We found it in the bathroom for some reason.
Signs on the walls of the shower room with grammatically incoherent warning remarks about the importance of maintaining personal hygiene.
Another arms room.
Soldiers’ last names written on the shelves.
Ruins of a roofed structure that looks like a bus stop between the barracks. Probably used to be a designated smoking area.
A mysterious underground shelter. After asking some people about it I concluded that this was an alternate control station.
The other barrack is an identical twin of the first one.
Posters in the arms room.
The room where political orientations were held, also called “the Lenin room”. Half of the floating ceiling panels have come off.
The remains of decorative wall panels.
Images by Maxim Mirovich