Danila Tkachenko’s Ghostly Photographs of Abandoned Soviet Military Sites

Jun 30, 2021 1 comments

In his series “Restricted Areas”, Moscow-based visual artist Danila Tkachenko looks at the human impulse to use destructive technologies in order to build an utopia, which often leads to failure as documented by these abandoned sites that were once the embodiment of technological progress in the Soviet Union.

Antenna built for interplanetary connection. The Soviet Union was planning to build bases on other planets, and prepared facilities for connection which were never used and are deserted now.

I traveled in search of places which used to hold great importance for the idea of technological progress. These places are now deserted. They have lost their significance, along with their utopian ideology which is now obsolete.

Many of these places were once secret cities, that did not appear on any maps or public records. These places were the sites of forgotten scientific triumphs, abandoned buildings of almost inhuman complexity. The perfect technocratic future that never came.

Any progress comes to its end earlier or later and it can happen for different reasons—nuclear war, economic crisis, natural disaster. What’s interesting for me is to witness what remains after the progress has ground to a halt.

“One day, I went to visit my grandmother who lives in a closed and previously secret city where the first Soviet nuclear bomb was developed,” Tkachenko told Lens Culture. “While there, I learnt that in the 1960s, there had been a nuclear disaster but it had been completely classified. As it turns out, a vast territory had been contaminated and the people living there developed a variety of chronic diseases because of the accident. The first shot of “Restricted Areas” was made in this city.”

Tkachenko continued: “These facilities were created by the state—and not by individuals. I believe that the state thinks much more about its own well-being and safety than of its people. As a result of this mindset, the actions of the state often lead to disasters that affect the entire population, composed of individuals.”

One of the world’s largest diesel submarines.

Sarcophagus over a closed shaft which is 4 km deep – was one of the deepest scientific shafts in the world at the time. Northern region, Russia

Amphibious airplane designed for vertical take-off. Called the Bartini Beriev VVA-14. The USSR built only two of them in 1976, one of which crashed during transportation.

Former residential buildings in a deserted Soviet polar scientific town, which was specialising on biological research

Water contamination test at the lake around the previously closed scientific city Chelyabinsk-40 (Russia)

Stages of the space rockets. Kazakhstan, Kyzylorda region

Deserted observatory located in the area with the best conditions for space observation. Kazakhstan, Almaty region

Former mining town which has been closed and made a bombing trial field. In 2003 president Vladimir Putin paid a visit to the location and was taken on the airplane to try the new bomb. The building on the photo shows the cultural center that was chosen as an object for bombing (which was successfully executed)

Dzerzhinsk city (Russia) where rocket engines were being produced in Soviet times. Was a closed city until 1992

Tropospheric antenna in the north of Russia – the type of connection which has become obsolete. There were many of them built in far North, all of them deserted at the moment.

Excavator on a closed quarry

Scientific storage at far North, Russia


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