Exactly twenty-five years ago, Russia began the withdrawal of troops from Latvia, the Republic left the first 49 soldiers. After the departure of the former Soviet army left its many inheritance: the garrison towns, heavy duty air defense radars, mines Intercontinental missiles. What happened to all that property now?
Once on the territory of the former Latvian SSR was over 1000 military units, which housed about 600 military sites. Now many of them have little left.
“Dragged down to the latches and concrete slabs airfields, and roads. No one was guarding. Especially lugging metal, so mine didn’t stand a chance”
“The Soviet garrisons, facilities and sites were officially transferred to the Latvian authorities in 1993. All the way down to the latch on the Windows was in place. Something was guarded for a short time, those objects which had hoped to use the local armed forces. Then came a period of General plunder. Trudged all the way up to the bolts and concrete slabs airfields, and roads. No one was guarding. Especially lugging metal, so mine didn’t stand a chance. I know many examples when the finder of the owner of the land himself the first of all robbed. Then calmed down when everything was pillaged, and left the main interest of the owners of the land”, – told the newspaper VIEW chief editor of the Baltic military history of Baltfort magazine writer Yury Melkonov.
Last February in Latvia started demolition of a former Soviet nuclear missile base “P12 Dvina” near the village of tirza in Gulbene region. Once in these places was stationed a 30-second missile regiment with headquarters in the town of alūksne, until 1982, were part of the 23-th guards order of Lenin red banner Orel-Berlin missile division, and later perepodchinenie the 40th division of the 50th army. In 1984, the regiment was disbanded due to the fact that available shakhtno-launchers “Dvina” R-12U and “Chusovaya” R-14U was considered outdated. Now it’s once formidable military building fully dismantled and recycled concrete rubble – work will last six months, valued at 189,9 thousand euros. Martins Malnieks owner engaged in the demolition company “Demolition” – told the media that in territory of Latvia there were once twelve Soviet rocket bases, including five underground. Almost all of them have been destroyed, the object in Gulbene region is the last.
It was suggested that the former base should be retained as a Museum, but the authorities of Latvia are trying to get rid of all Soviet military facilities, that they didn’t hate their era.
Dinaburg fortress (photo:Peteraleks/wikipedia.org)
By the way, in a disgusting state for years are the military relics of the Soviet period, but for Imperial times. So, after the Soviet withdrawal nearly twenty years stood empty, gradually collapsing, the majestic fortress in Daugavpils, built by order of Emperor Nicholas I. In the Soviet Union, there was located the Daugavpils higher military aviation engineering school named after Jan Fabricius, and in the 90 stone structures have become habitat for the homeless and drug addicts. Deserted streets with rows of abandoned buildings, black holes loopholes in the crumbling facades of old bastions, and mysterious dungeons – foreign experts, who visited the fortress, repeatedly expressed surprise at the fact that such a significant architectural-historical monument abides in negligence.
Only recently the city government began to attempt the reconstruction of this object, trying to attract tourists.
Latgalian ethnographer Janis Kiwanis complained to the newspaper VIEW: “Dinaburg fortress is a unique object. The impressive structure with huge walls, bastions, ravelins, designed in the typical for the Russian Empire of the XIX century Russian Empire style. It’s hard for me to even move so just think of something like this. Well, except that the fortress of Port Arthur – in the defense which, by the way, my grandfather died… Posterity will not forgive us if we in their stupidity and carelessness, we will lose this monument. But of the thirty-two historic buildings of the fortress twenty-two went cracks. From the walls begin to fall the stones: if you look at the fortifications located along Riga highway, you will see that the holes from the fallen stones there and gape”.
Not in the best condition and old Russian fortress Karosta in Liepaja, once built by order of Emperor Alexander III. Previously, there was stationed the Navy, but Soviet ships left Karosta in August 1994.
The fortress and Karosta in liepāja (photo:Ints Kalnins/Reuters)
“Today, the former port of Emperor Alexander III is a frequented tourist attraction. Here are the gallery of modern art, a small cinema, a surf club. Guided tours through the underground maze of FORTS, embankments and inspection of the prison (which was built as a guardhouse). In these casemates was serving a sentence sailors of the garrison that participated in the events of 1905. The last prisoners left notes on the walls of prison cells in 1997. The complex of the military port has a unique architectural and cultural importance, but most of the buildings abandoned and gradually destroyed”, – told the newspaper LOOK historian Oleg the Snow.
Guide Martins Kesteris leading foreign tourists also expressed concerns about the deteriorating military buildings of Imperial times. “The reality, of course, sad. Because Karosta declared a special economic zone, this means that there are, in the opinion of management of the city increasingly needs to focus on the development of the industry of the port. Unfortunately, in my opinion, now is the destruction of a unique historical site. As a result, there does not develop nor the tourism, nor the industry, which they say in the government. And by and large continues to crumble,” says Kesteris.
Also revealing the fate of the military town Skrunda, in the Kurzeme region. In Soviet times there was a separate radio node of the system of missile warning. The object was created in the 1960-ies for the operation of nadvoreshni the radar of the “Dnestr-M”, representing the two horn antennas with a length of 250 and a height of 15 meters each with a two-story building command-computing point between them. Construction “with its never-sleeping eye” began in 1965 and ended in January 1969. Paired with a similar station under Olenegorsky Murmansk region, local radar controlled West direction, tracking the launches of ballistic missiles from submarines NATO in the Norwegian and North seas. Information from the stations by special communication lines were transferred to the command center located in the Moscow region.
In the late 1970-ies Latvian station was upgraded. First, without interrupting the current radar, a mile from her elevated installation of a new type “Dnepr”: the detection range has reached 4000 km. Then updated and the instrument first installation. In the mid 1980-ies started the construction of a type of radar “Daryal-UM”. The project is consisted of two high-rise buildings, the receiver and the transmitter, due to the high sensitivity separated by several hundred meters. At the beginning of 1990-ies the construction was almost completed, imported equipment.
As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union the building became the property of the Republic of Latvia, for his rent Russia paid $ 5 million a year. Despite requests from Moscow, Riga refused her further exploitation of the base. In early may 1995 the building of the receiving installation “DTV” was blown up by the U.S. company Control Demolition Incorporated. In turn, the station “Dnepr” has stopped work on 31 August 1998 and was dismantled by the end of 1999. For demolition and clearing of territory of Russia has paid $ 7 million.
In 2000, the government of Latvia has allocated for the preservation of the military town Skrunda $ 1.7 million, and in December 2009 it was put up for auction at a starting price of 150 thousand lats (220 thousand euros, the cost of four-room apartments in Riga). Wanting to buy this stuff was not, but the former garrison town was popular with tourists, in addition, there were filming. Visited Skrunda told that the town was given the opportunity to “ride” into the past like a time machine: “In the training center of the former military complex now desolation reigns, but there still remained the silent witnesses of the past. Logs student evaluations, and some things military. As Soviet posters and bright slogans have become the subject of contemporary art, from the campus, they mostly disappeared. However, some of the rarities still come across: a visual diagram of the gas mask, well-preserved Armory. In the guardroom – “Wallpapers”, invented by resourceful Soviet military: on the walls are pasted newspaper, and the top is painted with oil paint. “Wallpaper” is very informative. It is possible to know what the country lived during those years.”
Recently, the “Ghost town” was chosen for training of the army of Latvia, and in July last year the Minister of defence Raimonds Bergmanis announced that there will be established a NATO firing range. They say that this area of 45 hectares, which includes about seventy properties, most of which are in poor condition (barracks, ten block houses, a school, a kindergarten, a hotel and a hospital), allows for tactical maneuvers in the urban environment. In January 2017 the Alliance even placed in your profile in YouTube a video that shows how undergo military training in Skrunda.
In parallel in Latvia still have started to understand that it is better to use a former Soviet bunkers and a polygon as a “zamanuhi” for tourists than allowing them to slowly crumble. So, the country’s rural tourism Association made a map of such objects in which it is noted seventy places. The head of the Association Asnate Ziemele thinks that the rest of the Soviet army’s legacy it is necessary to put in order. “Maybe now something will change. We kind of advertise how little such objects equip and guard. It is, doubtless, our history, and there have always been people interested in the military heritage of the Soviet Union,” says Ziemele.
In turn, the businessman Raivis, Federowicz prudently decreed the fate of the Soviet bunker in Riga, Andrejosta area, arranging a small Museum. “I am interested in since childhood, when in the 90s I was watching TV. Bunkers and army base then shown on the negative side, that, well, it’s high-risk areas, contaminated sites. But in me it caused a lot of interest. Two decades had passed and had the opportunity to travel these places in person. In my childhood could not even imagine that so many of them,” says Raivis.
Among the exhibits of his Museum is, for example, an old mobile phone KGB cipher machine, a variety of gas masks and a military uniform. The businessman actively engaged in the completion of its Museum collection. “We have just today brought a new radio receiver – got it in two large three-liter cans of beer. And the man was happy that it paid dearly. This is the price he has appointed over the radio,” says Federowicz.
To avoid being accused of “glorifying communism”, with banned in the country sickle-molodosti symbols on display he exhibited.