(All images (unless stated) by submarines.narod.ru, reproduced with permission)
High on the foreboding Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia, within the Arctic Circle, lies an incredible Soviet submarine graveyard near the Russian naval base of Olenya Bay. Attached to the closed town of Gadzhiyevo in Murmansk Oblast, the base represents one of the most bleak naval facilities on the planet, home to abandoned Cold War-era hardware that clings to life – just – in the 21st century.
The rusting submarine hulks reportedly date back to the 1970s. During that time, shipyards struggling to keep up with large military orders didn’t have the resources to decommission and dismantle older vessels. As a result, some were sunk as targets, while others were towed to nearby Nezametnaya Cove and seemingly forgotten.
Resting semi-submerged in icy water beneath the ruins of several abandoned buildings, the rusting submarines are stark reminders of the vast, brutish Soviet military machine. Their location within the boundaries of a restricted zone accessible only to those with security clearance makes the wrecks little more than contaminated monuments to the collapsed Soviet Union.
While several abandoned submarines were reportedly scrapped during the 1990s, a 2007 Google Earth image revealed at least seven remaining hulks. Nearby, a rusting crane used to scrap the vessels stands near an abandoned chemical storage warehouse. Amid serious environmental concerns, it’s unclear how long the wrecks will survive the axe – assuming they haven’t yet been scrapped.