Balaklava is a very interesting destination for those that like their dark tourism to be infused with top-level Cold War secrecy.
This once unassuming fishing village based in Crimea, Ukraine became the location for a large secret Soviet submarine base in 1957.
Upon arrival in Balaklava, it is easy to see why they chose this location. It is simply the last place you would expect a hi-tech (for the time) nuclear submarine facility to be placed.
The authorities actually wiped Balaklava from official maps once construction began. To the military and those in the know it then became known as “Object 825 GTS.”
The Building of Object 825 GTS
A huge underground complex was built over a period of 4 years. Completed in 1961, it was designed to house multiple naval submarines across a network of water channels, with dry docks for repair works, space for munitions (including nuclear warheads and rockets) and a communication center.
Subway workers from Moscow were drafted in for the construction. It was an impressive endeavor.
Carved into the mountain of Tavros, (120 thousand tons of rock were removed in the process) the base was built to withstand a category-I nuclear explosion and could be used as a safe bunker in case of a nuclear attack.
To this end, it even had a hospital and food stores for fallout survival.
What was once known as Balaklava turned into a military town as a result of Object 825 GTS.
Borders were closed for those without the relevant access. Local residents that worked at the base could not have family members visit them.
Amazingly, the Soviets managed to keep the submarine base secret and operational until 1993. However, the end of the Cold War and the economic struggles of post-Soviet Russia meant there was no reason to keep the base open.
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After the Russians abandoned the complex they took the most valuable machinery and contents with them.
It was then left to rot for over a decade. Unguarded, the remaining components within the base were plundered, nearly all metal was scavenged.
In 2000 it was handed over to the naval forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who left it in a state of decline until 2003 when the Sevastopol “Marine Commission” proposed the construction of a museum.
Where is the Balaklava Submarine Base
- Address: Tavricheskaya Emb., 22, Balaklava
- Phone: +380 (8692) 63-75-92
Balaklava Submarine Base Today
The naval museum was opened to the public in 2004. With themed exhibition halls inside various sections of the complex, visitors gain an insight into what the repair shops and munition storage areas would have looked like during operation.
There are a number of guided tours of the complex some of which are done by boat. These take you along the canal network where the submarines would have once been held, waiting for repairs.
Walk the long stone corridors is also an experience, as it is easy to imagine the hive of military and engineering activity that once took place here. There are even a few leftover missiles to look at too.