Five of the Most Far-Flung Military Outposts in Russia

PHOTO by Russian Ministry of Defense
The military outposts furthest from mainland Russia are in the Arctic regions

After the collapse of the USSR, the size of the Russian army decreased by 400 per cent, but it still has a long reach. You can even find Russian military personnel in areas where nature had no intention of Man going. LiveJournal has made a guide to the Russian Army's most remote military posts.

Historically, airmen had the greatest chance of serving in remote areas. Enemies needed to be detected at the edges of the Motherland's impenetrable borders, so now the ramshackle remains of radar stations now can be seen along all the border, including on the arctic islands. As well as the airmen, preparedness to serve in isolated areas was also shown by the crews of military space monitoring posts and air defence pop-up airdromes, plus officers and sailors at naval signal stations. The trends are still the same today, albeit not on the same scale as before.

Alexander Island: 80°38′38″ N.l. 46°49′49″ E.l.

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Nagurskoye Military post

The Russian army's most northerly military post is found on Alexander Island (the Franz Joseph Land Archipelago). In 2014-2015, in addition to the frontier post located here, a 150-strong tactical taskforce was assigned to the base. Divisions posted at Nagurskoye include the air commandant’s office, radar squadron, air traffic control, and Pantsir-S missile system group.

Average annual temperature on the island: −12 °C

Distance to the nearest major city (Arkhangelsk): 1970 km.

Here's LJ-user SGATO writing about the peculiarities of life on the island in 2013:

«Nagursky settlement. When you wake up in the morning, even before you open your eyes, you can hear the work of the diesel generator. That's life. The generator is everything for Nagursky, but especially warmth and light. The window in a long, narrow room is covered with a blanket. Light comes through the holes in the blanket and a small ventilation window. It’s the polar summer. The sun doesn't drop below the horizon during the day or even at night. The settlement residents are already awake. They are military men. They have their schedule. The most northerly frontier post is here.»

Sredny Island 79°31′00″ N. l. 91°11′49″ E.L.

Military personnel were based on Sredny Island, which is part of the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago in the Kara Sea, back during the USSR's time. In the middle of the 1980s there was a military aerodrome, a separate radar defence squadron and a frontier post. After the fall of the USSR, the military units were removed from the island. According to the military, the island's base will be for airforce units. They will include three Pantsir-S missile systems and radar facilities. The base's staff, without taking frontier post staff into account, will be up to 150 people. The programme of building military infrastructure is currently being completed.

Average annual temperature on the island: -14 °C.

Distance to the closest major city (Krasnoyarsk): 2200 km.

Kotelny Island 75°27′31″ N.L. 140°50′35″ E.L.

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Coastal defence troop manoeuvres on Kotelny Island

Kotelny is the biggest island in New Siberian Islands Archipelago. One of the largest military aerodromes in the Arctic region, Temp, was built during the Soviet era and remains in situ to this day. The Ministry of Defence is planning to extend the landing strip to accept IL-76 heavy military transport aircraft very soon. The 99th Tactical Group which is now based on the island includes a Pantsir-S missile systems battery, coastal anti-ship missile defences, a Rubezh battery (2 units) and a radio squadron. In 2015, during the base's construction, workers went on strike because of delays to their salary payments.

Average annual temperature on the island: −14,3 °C

Distance to the nearest major city (Yakutsk): 1500 km

LJ-user Аndrian Kolotilin was taking a tour of the New Siberian islands for his blog:

«Our route lies across a plateau covered in mounds of earth. They are large hills of soil, loess or peat, left behind after the melting of the Pleistocene ice. The thick layer of permafrost which partially covers all of the largest New Siberian archipelago islands still lies underneath. It is pretty difficult to walk along the earthen mounds: up-down, up-down, they are squelchy and from a distance look like a huge cattle yard in which thousands of mammoths left droppings. And it is here where you can find the remains of mammoths. Our group saw a small fragment of a mammoth’s tusk, took a photo of it, and gave it to our guides. Mammoth bone is a licensed good, so its export from the Republic of Sakha is strictly controlled. A kilo of mammoth tusk can raise up to 15,000 roubles at auction.»

Wrangel Island: 71°14′ N.L. 179°24′ W.L.

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Unloading equipment on Wrangel Island

Wrangel Island is found in the Arctic Ocean between the East Siberian and Chukchee Seas. The name of the “Polyarnaya Zvezda” (Polar Star) military base located on the island refers to the Eastern military region. In Autumn 2014, its staff began air defence combat duty. The Army’s takeover of the island was marked by an ignominious scandal: in December 2015, one of the workers on the island killed a female polar bear by throwing a smoke grenade at it.

Average annual temperature: −6,6 °C.

Distance to the nearest major city (Anadyr): 700 km.

LJ-user Gorshkov_sergey, writing about the island's natural population:

«Many of you will have heard that Wrangel Island is a breeding ground for polar bears. Wrangel Island was, at one point, home to the largest number of their dens in the world. There used to be 300 to 500 polar bear dens on Wrangel Island. Many people continue to assume this is still the case. I thought so, too, until I saw it by myself. I arranged all of my documentation and flew to Wrangel Island to take photos of bear cubs. My guide and I were searching the mountains and valleys for two weeks and we found eight dens, but they were all empty. A few days before I left, a female bear with three cubs came to our camp. I have always dreamt of taking a picture of a female bear with cubs and that dream came true on Wrangel Island. It was the greatest reward, not just for this trip, but for all my time spent observing polar bears…»

Bering Island 55°00′ N.L. 166°15′ E.L.

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The most easterly military post of the Russian army is on Bering Island

The base is one of the Komandorskiye Islands, and is situated to the East of Kamchatka. The most easterly military post of the Russian army is located on the island as part of a separate radar defence squadron with about 50 staff. The only inhabited settlement on the island is Nikolskoye village with a population of 691 people.

Average annual temperature is 4,3 °C.

Distance to the regional centre (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky): 540 km.

Here’s LJ-user Vlad_smyrnov, sharing his impressions after visiting the island in 2014:

«I think that everyone has dreamt of living on a paradise island, lost in the middle of the ocean, inhabited by exotic birds and animals, with kilometre-long sandy beaches, where life flows at a gentle pace. I have found all of those criteria on Bering Island, the largest island of Komandorsky Archipelago. It could even be called paradise if the weather hadn’t been so dull and cold almost all year round: I don’t think that people in paradise would freeze anywhere near as much as those people living on Bering Island.»

LiveJournal magazine note:

The American army’s most extreme military post is reckoned to be Thule military base in the North of Greenland. The base was created in the early 1950s, when the infrastructure provided for the deployment of strategic bombers and a staff of 10,000. Today, the base is manned by about 500 men, mainly monitoring the radar systems. The lowest annual temperature here can drop as low as -43 °C.