Russia celebrates 60 years since Gagarin’s spaceflight – This was his air base near Norway

Yuri Gagarin indicating “Poyekhali!” (“Let’s go!”) as spacecraft Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961 kicked off is however a legendary and often applied statement amid Russians. The Soviet cosmonaut’s heroic flight designed him a single the country’s most admired historic figures.

Up north, in the Murmansk area, the 60th anniversary is marked with distinctive proud. For practically 3 years, from 1957 to 1959, Lieutenant Gagarin served as a pilot with the Northern Fleet’s 169th fighter regiment deployed at Loustari air base in the city of Korzunovo.

Situated in the Pechenga valley, this was the Soviet Union’s closest navy airport to NATO territory. From right here, Norway is 16 kilometers away, or a lot less than a two minute flight following choose-off.

In addition to eastern Turkey, this was the only put the USSR experienced a immediate land-border to a NATO member. Some couple tens of kilometers east of Luostari are the bases for the Northern Fleet’s strategic nuclear powered submarines. Trying to keep them harmless from possible enemy attacks has usually been of optimum priority.

A number of thousand people lived in the city of Korzunovo. Generally pilots and officers serving the aircraft and airport. 

Right now, the town is just about vacant. Silent and bizarre. Bushes and trees begin to develop in in between the pavers and concrete pads that after formed the runway and placements for warplanes. The amount of money of plastic rubbish may well shock you, wherever does it all come from? There are extremely couple men and women here these days. The various sq. kilometers substantial shut-down airfield isn’t exactly the principal picnic desired destination for men and women in the Pechenga region.


Picture: Thomas Nilsen


When the air drive wing was redeployed to Severomorsk-1 air foundation twenty yrs ago, the flats blocks and city infrastructure was remaining just about uninhabited. Empty deserted houses in a row together the principal street generate an image of a ghost town. Not totally so, the yellow university bus still drives the street and a modest shop continue to keep its doorways open up. A article place of work is inside just one of the residences blocks, nevertheless really hard to come across. There are some 250 men and women residing in Korzunovo.

Hunting absent from the abounded airfield and the ghost town apartment blocks, the site of Korzunova is a splendor place in the Arctic taiga forest.

The shallow Pechenga river flows totally free and is well known for its salmon catches. Just down the hill is the recently reconstructed Pechenga monastery with all its picturesque orthodox log properties searching comparable to how the monastery was just before the Swedes burned it down 450 decades back.

Gagarin still shines glory to what’s remaining of the town. Driving along the major street, his golden bust stands across the street from the town administration, just under the wings of an previous greenish propeller plane on show. A little, but really insightful museum honoring Gagarin is open for people. Whilst you have to make an appointment for the museum to open up. Korzunovo doesn’t get that a lot of readers from outside, still. At the museum, you understand that Yuri Gagarin and his wife Valentina’s elder daughter, Elena, was born in Korzunovo in April 1959. Elena Gagarina is right now Director of the Kremlin museums in Moscow.


The yellow university bus in entrance of one of the two apartment blocks exactly where persons continue to are dwelling. Picture: Thomas Nilsen


The neighborhood faculty in town serves the encompassing armed service garrisons like Decrease Luostari, Upper Luostari and 19 km the place Russia’s 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade is situated. Satisfied pupils disembark the yellow university bus not all little ones in the earth have a huge shut down airfield as the nearest playground. The abandoned terminal creating is just a couple of hundred meters from the college property. For just one or a further rationale, the flight regulate tower is still manned. A lady, most probable not educated as flight control officer, is sitting down at the rear of large home windows at the major of the tower. Looking at absolutely nothing else than the empty airstrip and ruins of other properties together the apron and taxiways.

Visited by the Barents Observer a number of years back, the girl in the tower was not very communicative when being familiar with a foreign reporter was strolling the airfield. There is a form of audible silence as you stroll across the additional than two kilometers very long runway. 50 percent fallen brick partitions at the diverse structures, the half demolished hangars, ammunition bunkers, scrap metallic in all places, the wander is actually a tour by way of Cold War background. A variety of outdoor museum. You can completely nicely think about the last simply call more than the speaker process: «Hi fellas, the Cold War is over! Choose your aircraft and other precious tools with you and let’s get-off and shift absent from below. Away from the Norwegian border. Last bording phone. Bye, bye Luostari.»


After on a time, a hectic runway for warplanes. Photograph: Thomas Nilsen


All planes from the base were being moved to Severomorsk-1 near Safonovo north of Murmansk close to the 12 months 2000. With the departure, all landing lights, radio-conversation gear and radars had been demolished and moved absent. The shadows of the earlier, even so, are nonetheless noticeable. «Peace on earth. We safeguarded our liberty in fight,» reads a slogan on a wall of just one of the abounded homes. A different reads «The victory of communism is inevitable.»

Even though the navy existence is historical past inside of the town, the outskirts is nonetheless crucial for Russia’s Arctic brigde beneath command of the Northern Fleet. A highway-indicator in the stop of the principal street of Korzunova details you in the route of the «Tankodrom», a coaching place for tanks. Also other major military automobiles takes advantage of the location for exercise routines.

You can see more images from Korzunovo and the encompassing spot in the image gallery in top of this article. All images in this write-up are taken some couple a long time back.


A golden bust of Yuri Gagarin shines the glory of the city. Picture: Thomas Nilsen



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