Boží Dar: The Mysterious History of an Abandoned Soviet Ghost Town

Abandoned apartment block in Soviet ghost town of Boží Dar near Milovice, Czech Republic (Image: phshatiy; the abandoned Soviet ghost town of Boží Dar)

Less than 30 miles northeast of Prague, amid what’s been described as one of the fastest growing suburban areas in the Czech Republic, lies an abandoned Soviet ghost town that was left to decay after the end of the Cold War. When Vice explored the ruins of Boží Dar, located just over a mile from the town of Milovice, they found a crumbling Red Army airfield and long-derelict accommodation blocks, the full history of which even locals seemed uncertain of.

Abandoned artwork at the former Soviet airfield of Boží Dar

Derelict airfield building near Milovice at the abandoned Soviet ghost town of Boží Dar (Images: phshatiy; Tiia Monto)

Vice reports that the USSR took over the base in the Nymburk District (which was previously used by the Austro-Hungarian Army and later the Luftwaffe during World War Two) in 1968. Once the Soviet Union had moved in, a town was built at the site in order to cement their claim on the airfield.

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bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-5 (Images: phshatiy; Google Street View)

The Soviets called it Boží Dar – meaning “God’s Gift” in Czech – and security at the closed town is said to have been especially tight and oppressive. It’s rumoured that no-one was allowed to enter or leave the base other than high ranking Soviet officials. Vice also reported that the residents of nearby Milovice had been unaware that Boží Dar even existed. Soviet paranoia also allegedly led to the closure of Milovice’s sewage treatment plant in order to prevent waste levels giving away the population size at Boží Dar.

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bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-7 (Images: FOB1C)

This may be something of an urban legend, however; Prague Wandering writes that, despite the fact that the base was tightly guarded and sealed off from its surroundings by a heavy barbed-wire fence, and that large parts of its infrastructure like the reservoir were located underground, a healthy black market quickly developed between Russian personnel and local Czechs.

bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-8 (Image: FOB1C)

Those living in the Nymburk District today believe that secrecy surrounding Boží Dar was due more to a rumoured stockpile of nuclear weapons, than any attempt to prevent Russian forces mixing with locals. Before the Velvet Revolution, the USSR maintained as many as 74 military sites in what was then Czechoslovakia. Though Russia refuses to confirm or deny whether nuclear weapons were kept on Czech soil, it’s widely believed that a number of nukes were indeed in country.

bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-9 (Image: Tiia Monto)

One of those rumoured locations was the Central Group of Forces complex near Milovice. A 2008 interview with the Group’s former commander, General Vorobyov, seemed to confirm the one-time presence of nuclear weapons at Boží Dar, despite the Russian government’s official stance.

bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-10 (Image: Tiia Monto)

When the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union began to crumble, the writing was on the wall for Boží Dar. The Red Army packed up and left in 1991, and over the years the abandoned military base has been looted and vandalised. Anything of value has been ripped out.

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bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-12 (Images: Google Earth)

Rusting aircraft hangars lie empty, their surrounding taxiways strewn with weeds. Nearby, the forbidding Cold War accommodation blocks stand derelict, comprising a haunting military ghost town just a stone’s throw from the Czech capital. Boží Dar, neglected and heavily polluted, was handed over to the Czech government in 1992. But despite various proposals, the abandoned base has stood empty in the 24 years since.

bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-13 (Image: Google Street View)

Now, derelict walls are scrawled with graffiti and impromptu art projects, but traces of military life at Boží Dar endure. There’s a school, where the children seem to have been referred to by numbers rather than names. Elsewhere, the defunct wellness spa stands empty, the movie theatre has been looted of all its seats and the entire complex is littered with old Soviet-era newspapers.

bozi-dar-abandoned-near-milovice-14 (Image: Google Street View)

Quarter of a century after the Cold War base was abandoned, many potentially hazardous military relics continue to appear. Though much of the live ammunition discarded by withdrawing Soviet forces was removed after the Velvet Revolution, it’s not unheard of for dog walkers and other visitors to stumble upon more ordnance and even land mines – making the abandoned Soviet ghost town of Boží Dar a terrifying place on a whole other level.

Keep reading – if military history and neglected relics are your thing, explore our feature covering 12 abandoned Cold War airfields of the former Soviet Union

 
 
 

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