When it comes to Russia, there’s one thing that can be guaranteed: you will surely run into some weird things. Once the mother country of the USSR – one of the largest empires in human history – the Soviet government constructed vast amounts of buildings, mines and cities in even the most far-flung places of the biggest country on earth. When the USSR collapsed in 1993 and economic depression set in, many of these structures became abandoned and left to rot away. However, others were also left devoid of human habitation for far darker and more horrific reasons. Today, we run down the top abandoned places in Russia; many of these structures are remnants of a fallen empire and a hotspot for UrbEx (urban exploration) fanatics and photographers.
Some we have visited on YPT group tours, and others on specialist private tours across Russia. Read on for YPT’s top 5 abandoned places in Russia.
The Radioactive Atomic Lighthouses of the Northern Coast
Along the vast coastline of northern Russia, which runs for thousands of miles across the Polar Circle, daylight is rare treat and the harsh region is submerged in total darkness for most of the year. Which is a problem for the shipping traffic attempting to navigate their way from eastern to western Russia or vice versa. So during the Soviet Union, the Communist government built a string of lighthouses across the enormous, mostly uninhabited coastline of northern Russia. Being in a nigh-uninhabitable region and many hundreds of miles from civilization, these lighthouses needed to be automatic and so were run on small nuclear reactors without an external power supply or people.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and economic depression hit Russia, the lighthouses continued to run for a while but soon began to fall into disrepair. When looters finally made their way to the lighthouses in search of scrap metal, they ignored the radioactive warning signs and destroyed the equipment and reactors in search of copper, causing the lighthouses to become radioactive hot zones. Today, they stand as isolated, radioactive remnants of forgotten Soviet technology. This photo demonstrates that the lighthouses are best photographed from a distance:
The Dagdizel Plant, Dagestan
The Dagdizel plant was built in 1939 as a military testing facility located two miles offshore in the Caspian Sea. As military requirements changed, this enormous facility became less and less used and too big to dismantle. In 1966 it was left to rot. It now remains a spooky-looking ghost city on the horizon, inhabited by birds and the occasional hardcore urban explorer. The structure stands on a concrete foundation and is 5,200 square meters. It once featured a library, sports hall and even a hotel for the workers.
The Abandoned Russian Submarine Base, Kamchatka
Built under Khrushchev in 1960 as the Cold War began to ramp up, Codename Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky-54 is a Soviet submarine base and town located in Kamchatka, a peninsula nicknamed Russia’s Land of Fire and Ice due to its abundance of volcanoes and glaciers. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the base was abandoned in 1996 due to the economic crisis. Accessible only by sea, helicopter or snowmobiles in winter, it now stands as an abandoned town still full of abandoned Russian military equipment and abandoned Russian buildings. A Soviet time warp which has been taken over by nature, and truly one of the most exciting abandoned places in Russia.
Beslan School, North Ossetia.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the North Caucasus descended into a string of bloodthirsty civil wars and Islamic insurgencies killing thousands and causing crimes against humanity on a widespread scale. But few were as inhuman as the Beslan Crisis, a three-day siege that horrified the world.
On September 1st 2004, in the sleepy town of Beslan in North Ossetia, School Number One (SNO) was stormed and occupied by Islamic militants under the orders of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, nicknamed ‘Russia’s Bin Laden’. The terrorists took 1,100 hostages and after a three day siege, the building was stormed by Russian Security Forces in a brutal firefight. In the aftermath 334 people (excluding terrorists) were killed, including 186 children. Today, the school is burnt out and abandoned but remains a poignant memorial to those killed in the tragedy and one of the eeriest abandoned places in Russia.
The Mirny Mine, Yakutia
Mirny is located in Yakutia, Siberia, where winter temperatures regularly drop to -40. The Mirny diamond mine is the largest mine in the world and is rumoured to have sucked in helicopters. It used to be a lucrative industry that provided jobs and revenue for the region and its people. Opened after an expedition in the 1950s, the mine once produced an enormous number of high-quality Russian diamonds during the Soviet Union. The mine was the lifeline of the town of Mirny.
As mining began to ramp up, diamonds became harder to find and workers began to lose their jobs. Eventually, the mine closed in 2004 and, as the largest excavated hole in the world, it looks like a giant black hole fired into the earth.
To explore the wealth of abandoned places in Russia from abandoned cities and towns to abandoned military bases and even an abandoned Russian space shuttle, join one of our many Russian tours or contact us for a quote for a private tour!