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April 20th, 2007 at 7:55 am

Former Secret Bunker Turned into Cold War Museum

A once-secret bunker, located 60 meters beneath central Moscow, will soon be open to the public and may soon contain a museum devoted to the Cold War.

 

The bunker is made up of four cavernous tunnels, each 150 meters long.

The entrance to the Tagansky Protected Command Point is concealed in an unassuming 19th-century building a few minutes’ walk from a busy intersection. Given a paper pass by the guard, visitors take a high-speed elevator down to the formerly secret headquarters located 60 meters — almost the height of a 20-story building — underground. At that depth, conversation is drowned out every few minutes by the roar of metro trains passing overhead.

Sold off in an auction last year, the bunker now belongs to a private company that plans to turn it into an entertainment complex with a museum about the Cold War, a restaurant and even a spa. But it is already possible to book excursions around the 600-meter-long network of bare, cavernous tunnels.

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The bunker’s director, Olga Arkharova, gave a tour of the complex Tuesday, leading the way confidently around the dusty tunnels. When a company called Novik-Serviz bought the bunker in 2006, she said, almost nothing remained of its original interior. "The tunnel used to be covered up; there are still some panels," she said, pointing at a corroded metal object. "There used to be carpets and parquet floors, and people in white coats working here."

Arkharova said the bunker was built from 1952 to 1956 as a communications headquarters for the country’s leadership and military top brass. It could also be used as a bomb shelter. Up to 3,000 people could live and work there for 90 days without assistance from the outside world, thanks to stores of food and medicine, an air recycling system and diesel generators.

Still visible on the walls are terse stenciled commands such as "On the territory of the site, the walkways in the passages are narrow, be careful." A dusty portrait of Karl Marx lies on an abandoned television in a hallway. Stacked against a wall is a poster showing diagrams of rifle parts. In one tunnel, wagons used for the construction of the complex still stand on rails.

The bunker was under the aegis of the State Central Telegraph agency, although both civilians and military personnel worked there, Arkharova said. The agency began modernizing the bunker in the 1980s, but when money ran out in the ’90s it was stripped bare and given only basic maintenance. "Everything more or less valuable or interesting was taken out of here, and we got the site in an horrific, neglected state. It was just a dump," the bunker director said.

Igor Tabakov / MT
Vintage communication gear like this will be displayed in the planned Cold War Museum.

On Tuesday, workmen were laying a concrete floor in a section of the complex where the owners plan to open a permanent exhibition about the bunker’s history, to be called the Cold War Museum. Another tunnel contained old telephones, typewriters and a device for measuring radiation. "Some of these things we were given, some things we bought, some things we found," Arkharova said. "We cleaned them up and they will be put into the exhibition."

Some secrets remain around the complex. There are a total of three entrances, Arkharova said, including one that leads to the Taganskaya metro station. She declined to show the metro entrance, but said that workers used to commute to the complex on special metro trains that ran at night.

If the new owners’ plans come to fruition, the bunker will be transformed into a leisure complex with a Cold War theme. Arkharova talked about recreating the main command center — complete with a map of the world, James Bond style — and opening a retro cafeteria offering shots of vodka and tea from samovars.

"Here we plan to put in a recreation center," Arkharova said, standing in one of the four interconnected 150-meter tunnels. "The next tunnel will be a nightclub, a restaurant and a spa center. Those are our big plans."

Via the Moscow Times

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