There is a small shack on the coast of Gabriel bay. It is windy, rainy and nasty outside, but inside the cosy shack there is a little furnace that is slowly digesting a piece of Bering coal. Vlad Lapshin lights another cigarette and continues:
– We heard everything. We heard Americans bomb Yugoslavia, we listened through Operation Desert Storm… We heard communications from all over the world, we listened. The service was exciting, analytical.
Then he spoke in a troubled voice and with a heavy heart about the breaking up of one of the best signal intelligence centers that went on in the early 2000s. Vlad did his army service in the town of Zarechinsk. It is now a deserted military town located five miles away from Beringovsky settlement.
Since bloggers with cameras are not usually allowed to enter fully operaional military sites, visiting an abandoned military town is often the only way of fully realizing the great power of our country, So I take my chance and go for a tour of Zarechinsk.
I took the “short way” to get there. Lanscapes of the Bering sea coast.
It all started in the early 1950s, when a major construction project was implemented in order to build the Krug signal intelligence system.
THE KRUG SYSTEM
The system was designed in the early 1950s for he purpose of intercepting any communication concerning nuclear delivery airplanes of the USA and NATO and spy planes (AWAKS, B-52, B-1, B-2, C-135, SR-71, U-2, KC-135).
Apart from strategic bomber cockpit communication interception, it was used for tapping into United States Joint Chiefs of Staff satellite communication system.
By conducting direction finding from multiple RDF stations, the location and direction of the client could be determined with a rather high level of precision even when they were thousands of miles away.
The Krug system consisted of 12 strategic elint centers, 8 RDF units that were located along the borders of the USSR (that is why the system was named “Krug”, which literally means “circle”) and 4 communication interception centers located abroad.
A map showing the Krug system stations locations
One of the stations of the new system was based in Chukotka. The reason was obvious — it was close to the territories of the potential enemy. But why it was Beringovskiy settlement that was specifically chosen as the location for the base is still a mystery to me.
When construction works began on the territory of the future Zarechinsk, the troops of the so-called “invasion army” had already been located in Providenya settlement, with all necessary infrastructure and communications at hand.
Moreover, Providenya is much closer to the USA than Beringovsky. Obviously there must have been a good reason for the base to be located in Beringosvky.
In the late 1990s a decision was made to relocate the signals intelligence base to Anadyr. So, in 2003 the settlement was abandoned by the military. However, its looting had started long before the last of the personnel were gone.
When all of them had moved out, the flow of people coming to Zarechinsk “for household items” became solid and steady.
Everything was taken out – bathroom equipment from residential properties, groceries remaining in the warehouses, building materials, wires, base metal elements etc. Today Zarechinsk is one of the most devastated military towns I have ever seen. There is nothing left.
Last days of the beautiful fall
Some of the antennae from Zarechinsk have been moved to Anadyr.
A washhouse with laundry facilities
A fuel, oil and lubricants warehouse is built of barrels
A wooden house
The command center
An al fresco painting you don’t usually expect to see inside a command center
The writing on the wall says “Military intelligence”
A typical Soviet army smoking area. A zone similar to this one can be found in any military base throughout the former Soviet Union.
A view from the building with former officers’ apartments
A problem with barrels utilization was solved in a very practical way in Zarechinsk. They were used to build roofed passages between buildings
Another chill-out zone
The way out of town leading to the RDF station
The RDF station
There used to be 40 antenna towers. Now there are slightly less than 30.
An antenna tower
An aerial view of Zarechinsk
Images by Evgeniy Basov, reproduced with permission