Skrunda abandoned Soviet military basis in Latvia

Skrunda ghost town.

Latvia in USSR was one of the regions close to West and there were made several Soviet military bases and installations as West were treated with caution and suspicion during Cold War. Military installation Skrunda-1 is 5 km from youngest city in Latvia Skrunda (gained city rights in 1996). Dnepr radar was constructed in 1960’s and this radar covered Western Europe and was strategically important for USSR. It was used to listen to objects in space and track if there are comming any intercontinental ballistic missiles which was designed for nuclear weapons delivery. New Daryal radar was started to construct in 1980’s and consisted of two buildings transmitter building with 8 floors and receiver building with 19 floors. However this new radar was never in use and locals know it with name “Skrundas locators”. In Skrunda military town were apartment buildings, school, barracks and officers club.

Third National Awakening started in Latvia in second part of 1980’s. It was a period of change when after many Soviet years people started to dare to talk about topics that was not convenient to Soviet regime. Skrunda was one of them. People claimed that there are withered trees around Skrunda- 1 and babies are born with different disease. After Latvia regained its independence in 1991 Russian Federation troops left the region in 1990’s. Latvia and Russian Federation signed agreement that Russian military can stay in Skrunda and use Dnepr radar until 1998 and then it has to be dismantled. There were international observers and Russia was paying rent to Latvia to use Dnepr radar 5 million $ per year.

Daryal radar (“Skrundas locators”) which was never used was blown up on 4th of May 1995. This controlled explosion was big symbol for independence of Latvia, there participated and gave speeches Guntis Ulmanis president of Latvia at that time and other politicians. Building collapsed in 12 seconds and dismantling of it was mostly financed by USA. All people in Latvia was following explosion of “Skrundas locators” at TV screens as it was such important symbol for the end of Soviet power in Latvia. Also with big excitement kids were watching it in schools on coming days.

Below is video how “Skrundas locators” was blown up and specially for this composed music by Zigmārs Liepiņš “Liberatio“. There are beautiful portraits from 90’s in this video.

After Russian army left Skrunda-1 became abandoned and demolished. There were unsuccessful attempts to sell this military city. Now it is open to the public and we are excited to offer tours to this interesting but abandoned place with history about Cold War. Our Skrunda tour can also be combined with a visit to Kuldiga in the same trip. A beautiful quiet city, it makes a nice contrast to a tour in the soviet ghost town of Skrunda.