AskUral.com Hello! My name is Luba. I can show you my Yekaterinburg and Middle Urals in Russia!

23Sep/102

Secret towns in the Urals

My dad was a military man in the Soviet era. He worked for the Russian rail in Sverdlovsk then got a promotion and we moved to Nizhni Tagil. Tanks made in the plant of Nizhni Tagil were and still are transported by rail. So my dad was making timetables for the cargo trains with military equipment. When my dad retired he couldn't by rule leave the country and travel abroad for 5 years, so you can assume there weren't only tanks involved..

If you take a train from Yekaterinburg to the north you will inevitably pass one of the secret towns or closed towns as they are not a secret anymore in the Ural region - Novouralsk. You won't miss it because the town lies behind the barbed wire fence that resembles prison walls. The citizens of Novouralsk have special passes to enter. To visit your relatives there you need a special invitation from them for certain dates. I know a girl from a closed town who studies in Yekaterinburg, she happened to lose her pass and her Russian passport once and couldn't get back home to her parents for 5 weeks until her documents were renewed by the authorities. Of course, you may ask why on earth people live behind the wall. The answer is simple - good salaries at the secret factories, a tax free area, zero unemployment rate, zero crime - sounds like a paradise except for low life expectancy.

In the USSR when Yekaterinburg was called Sverdlovsk the secret towns weren't on the maps. They didn't even have names only numbers: Sverdlovsk 45, 16, etc. I remember when I was little and the news about American enemies was still on TV, my dad taught me a lesson on geopolitics. He brought the world map, showed me where the USA was and pointed at the Ural Mountains. We were equally far away from both sides. My dad explained that if the Americans had sent their rockets to Russia from the east coast, the rockets would have dropped somewhere around Moscow, sent from the west coast they would have reached Siberia but had no power to fly up to the Urals. Thus we lived in the safest place in the world. I was pretty satisfied with this explanation and have never cared for the Cold War since that.

Ironically, some time ago I was telling an American tourist about the closed towns in the Urals. The tourist and now my friend Harlow Ingalls happened to be a veteran of three International Wars including the Cold War conflict. He told me that the US government has always known about our secret factories and the secret towns were not a secret to them. On the contrary, the Urals would have been the first and the main target if the Cold War had turned into hot and their rockets would have dropped in the right place, to be sure...

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  1. Hi
    What would happen if a foreign visitor enters that closed city near you ???

    • Dear Peter, a foreign visitor can not visit the closed towns. It’s like entering a foreign country without a visa or other permission. The consequences will be the same


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