Lonely Planet Writer

An urban explorer is documenting abandoned Soviet military bases

Captivating footage taken by two urban explorers who spent two years tracking down and exploring abandoned Soviet military bases has helped to show what life was like behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, on the centenary of the Russian revolution. An enormous statue of Vladimir Lenin, gas masks and old Soviet newspapers can all be seen on the footage, which was taken across six different sites.

At the Soviet army base in Koenigsbrueck, Germany. Image by Broken Window Theory / mediadrumworld.com

Soviet-style murals and artwork were also captured by urban explorers, Marco Gasparic and Till Aufschlager, who even visited a former secret nuclear missile base while on their travels. The bases, scattered across the former East Germany and the Czech Republic, were used by the Soviets during the Cold War to station troops, with as many as 100,000 people living and working in some areas. Marco and Till, both 23-year-old students, grew up in an area which used to be East Germany, and say they were often coming across abandoned Soviet buildings while growing up. “We grew up in East Germany, a territory which was part of the USSR some decades ago,” Marco explains.

At the Airfield Milovice nad Labem, Czech Republic. Image by Broken Window Theory / mediadrumworld.com

“After the fall of the Berlin wall the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the former military power abandoned plenty of army bases in Eastern Europe. We were always fascinated by ghost towns because it is a really strange atmosphere when you are the only person in a whole city. So, we started an urbex (urban exploration) road trip in 2015 to visit some of the former military cities built by Soviet troops.”
During their travels, Marco and Till visited a former military headquarters, a Soviet ghost town hidden in the woods, an airfield surrounded by abandoned hangars and a set of barracks which used to be shelter to hundreds of soldiers. And Marco says the highlight by far was the exploration of a so-called ‘hidden city’ deep within the woods.

Soviet army base in Vogelsang, Germany. Image by Broken Window Theory / mediadrumworld.com

“The highlight was definitely the exploration of the abandoned Soviet town Vogelsang,” he said. “The military base is hidden deeply in the woods, so we had to go there by foot, but when we arrived we were entirely happy. Several thousand soldiers used to live there with their families, and everything from a hospital to gyms to a theatre could be found there. In some classrooms we found Cyrillic letters engraved in the walls, and they had also written down year numbers. It seemed like some former pupils had come back for a class reunion many years after the Soviets had abandoned the place, and to see this was incredible. It left a lasting impression on us.”

At the Airfield Milovice nad Labem, Czech Republic.

“When we were in Milovice walking across the huge abandoned airstrip I found a bullet which fit to an assault rifle,” continues Till. “Another intense experience was climbing the old chimney in the middle of the soviet ghost town Vogelsang. It was extremely risky but I went up very slowly and double-checked every step. The view was spectacular, and there was no sign of civilization in sight!” All of Marco and Till’s explorations can be seen on their YouTube channel, which you can visit here.

By Tom Dare/Media Drum World