Latvia's Soviet ghost town auctioned off to Russian pig farmers
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A ghost town in Latvia that hosted giant Soviet radars has been auctioned off to a mysterious Russian investor for more than ten times the asking price. The buyer? A company registered as pig farmers at an address in Samara Oblast, over 2,000 kilometres away. Read more...
Photo by Flickr user Petteri Mäntysaari.
A ghost town in Latvia that hosted giant Soviet radars has been auctioned off to a mysterious Russian investor for more than ten times the asking price. The buyer? A company registered as pig farmers at an address in Samara Oblast, over 2,000 kilometres away.
Known as Skrunda-1, the radar base was built outside the Latvian capital of Riga in the 1960s and considered a major Soviet defence mechanism during the Cold War. Housing servicemen and their families, it was home to some 700 Russian residents in its heyday. A dozen tower blocks, a school, a hospital, and even a hotel are still standing in the now deserted base.
Its major eyesores however - two anti-ballistic missile radars - were demolished in 1995 and 1998, shortly followed by the complete withdrawal of Russian personnel, some seven years after the fall of the USSR.
In 2008 Latvia decided to sell the land and on Feb. 5 2010 it was auctioned off at 1.55 million lats (2.18 million euros) to a Russian company called Alekseevskoe-Servis, until now unheard of. It has since has emerged that the company is listed in Kinel, a village in the Samara Oblast region of south-west Russia. Its dealings are reported to include pig farming, animal feed production and real estate.
Skrunda the ghost town
Photos posted by Flick user Petteri Mäntysaari, who visited the deserted base in February 2009. See the full set on Flickr.
Skrunda in its heyday
Photos taken between the late 1960s and 1998 when the Russians left Skrunda-1. Photos posted on "info.skrunda" forum, run by former Skrunda servicemen.
The outer wall of the smaller radar, 1995. Posted on skrunda.info forum by Robert Pavlov.
The bigger radar, built in the 1980s and known as the "Hen House". Posted on skrunda.info forum by Dmitry Nikitin.
Housing area for the servicemen.Posted on skrunda.info forum by Viktor Murygin.
A military parade in 1975. Posted on skrunda.info forum by Vladimir Nemchenko.
Young Pioneers (major Soviet youth movement) stand guard at Lenin monument. Posted on skrunda.info forum by Inna Zhukova.
Children (probably from service families) posing in front of the main radar. Posted on skrunda.info forum by Vasily Rozhkov.
Russian officers pose in front of the demolished radar, 1995. Posted on skrunda.info forum by Natalia Pogudalova.
“Rumours about a giant hog-farm are just ridiculous”
Girt Rungainis is an investment banker and analyst from Riga.
It's too early to tell for sure who has really bought Skrunda. Alexseevskoe-Servis is most probably just a prop, but who's behind it remains unknown. There is speculation in Latvia that it is Baikal Finance Group, the same Rosneft [Russian oil company] subsidiary that bought Yukos several years ago. But it's also unclear why the company would buy it. Widespread rumours about a giant hog-farm being planned at the location are just ridiculous. When somebody wants to build a hog-farm, he doesn't buy land with lots of buildings on it that he'll then have to demolish at great expense.
In my opinion the only viable option is that Skrunda has been bought to build some kind of factory that employs cheap labour - the housing is still all there, which can be used to accommodate migrant workers. But, if the buyer really is Rosneft, it's not clear what kind of factory they would build there. Very unlikely that it's going to be anything oil-related. The payment - more than two million euros - that is to be paid for Skrunda over the next 10 years, is a big sum. There's enough oil-related infrastructure [refineries, terminals etc] in the country at the moment, including depots close to Latvia's three ice-free ports, which could be bought for a similar amount of money, but which wouldn't need the costly process of renovation.
Nobody knows, except for those involved in the transaction, who's really bought Skrunda for such a price, and why."