Secret Soviet Town Sold At Auction For $3.1m

Just when you thought the cold war ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, more US and Soviet secrets keep coming to light in the most fascinating of ways.

From the Boston.com article:

“The town formerly known as Skrunda-1 housed about 5,000 people during the Cold War. It was abandoned over a decade ago after the Russian military withdrew from Latvia following the Soviet collapse.

A representative of a Russian investor won the bidding contest in Latvia’s capital, Riga, with an offer of $3.1 million, said Anete Fridensteina-Bridina, a spokeswoman for the Baltic country’s privatization agency.

It was not immediately clear what plans the buyer had for the 110-acre property, which is located in western Latvia about 95 miles from Riga. The town contains about 70 dilapidated buildings, including apartment blocks, a school, barracks, and an officers’ club.

Built in the 1980s, Skrunda-1 was a secret settlement not marked on Soviet maps because of the two enormous radar installations that listened to objects in space and monitored the skies for a US nuclear missile attack.

Like all clandestine towns in the Soviet Union, it was kept off maps and given a code name, which usually consisted of a number and the name of a nearby city.

After the Soviet Union fractured in 1991, a newly independent Latvia was eager to scuttle all Soviet military bases and expel Russian troops.

Russia’s Defense Ministry, however, continued to rely on Skrunda’s early-warning system, and as a result the radar base was for years used as a negotiation tool between Washington and Moscow.

Finally, in 1998 the last residents of Skrunda-1 departed, leaving behind hundreds of vacant apartments and dozens of buildings.

Talk about transforming the town into a recreational area went nowhere. It was two years ago that Latvia’s government decided to put the settlement on the auction block.”

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~ by K. Ritcheson on February 8, 2010.

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