Friday, March 29, 2013

The Soviet Ghost Town in the Czech Republic


There’s a little bit of the Soviet empire left in the middle of the Czech Republic, but it’s abandoned, decaying, and almost completely forgotten.

USSR military bases might not be known for their community outreach, but is it really possible that two towns, one Czech and one Russian, could exist just over one mile apart for two decades without the residents knowing anything about each other? If you’ve got enough barbed-wire fences and Kalashnikovs, I suppose anything is possible.

After occupying what was then Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviet army chose an airfield 28 miles from Prague as the base for its Central Group of Forces. It had been used before by the Austro-Hungarian military and then the Luftwaffe, but when the Soviets moved in, they came for the long haul.

They built an entire town next to the airfield and called it Boží Dar, which means “God’s gift,” and then fenced it off from the outside world. Oh, that dark Soviet humor! Or maybe they really did think it was nice, since it did have a pool, a movie theater, and wasn’t Nizhny Novgorod. 

Just down the (heavily guarded) road was the nondescript Czech town of Milovice and its 8,000 or so inhabitants, none of whom knew about the hundreds of families living under armed guard in cramped concrete tower blocks just up the road.
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