Moonlit Cold War Interceptor in Abram-Mys, Murmansk

On the other side of the Kola Fjord from Murmansk lays the small village of Abram-Mys (technically still part of the city of Murmansk). Here you can find not one, but two interesting places.

The first is not clearly marked in any way, but if you decide to walk up a little set of stairs with a modest wooden hand rail and then proceed to hike a few hundred meters up a gentle slope, on a path completely surrounded by trees, you end up atop a hill with a breath taking view of Murmansk and the fjord separating you from it. From a large opening in the vegetation you have a wonderful unobstructed view of the largest city on Earth North of the Artic circle, and right in front of you you can see the famous ice-breaker Lenin and the nearby Murmansk Marine Station.

Before you find the little staircase, after having left your car in a disproportionally large empty space that works as a parking lot, you will see the Memorial to the Soldiers of the 1st Air Defence Corps. This is the second interesting place to see in Abram-Mys, and interesting it is for a number of reasons.

First of all, bear with me for a tiny little bit of history.

During World War II, Murmansk was a link to the Western world for the Soviet Union with large quantities of goods important to the respective military efforts traded with the Allies: primarily manufactured goods and raw materials into the Soviet Union. The supplies were brought to the city in the Arctic convoys.

German forces in Finnish territory launched an offensive against the city in 1941 as part of Operation Silver Fox. Murmansk suffered extensive destruction, suffice to say it was the Soviet city that “received” the largest number of bombs in the whole war, second only to Stalingrad. However, fierce Soviet resistance and harsh local weather conditions with the bad terrain prevented the Germans from capturing the city and cutting off the vital Karelian railway line and the ice-free harbor. For the rest of the war, Murmansk served as a transit point for weapons and other supplies entering the Soviet Union from other Allied nations. This unyielding, stoic resistance was commemorated at the 40th anniversary of the victory over the Germans in the formal designation of Murmansk as a Hero City on May 6, 1985.

That is why the Air Defence Corps played such an important role in the War. Moreover, in October 1944, the 1st Air Defense Corps, together with the soldiers of the 14th Army and the sailors of the Northern Fleet took part in the Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive. The offensive defeated the Wehrmachts forces in the Arctic, driving them back into Norway, and was called the “Tenth Shock” by Stalin. The memorial is namely dedicated to the 1st Air Defence Corps, but the on-site bas-relief commemorates soldiers from all three branches of the army.

Moreover, along with a period anti-aircraft gun (on a large stone pedestal) and a reproduction of a WWII fighter plane, the largest part of the memorial is composed of military equipment from the Cold War. There is a number of ground-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft missile launcher, along with a real retired Sukhoi Su-15 twinjet supersonic interceptor aircraft (which is the one pictured above).

Personally I am baffled by the choice of this airplane!

Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful plane (or “bird” as aircraft enthusiasts would say) and in the mid 1960s it was cutting edge technology. But, still, this is (through no fault of its own!) one of the most nefarious airplanes in USSR history.

First of all this is the only Soviet plane (to the best of my knowledge) that deliberately shot down not one, but two passenger planes! One such attack was in 1978, when Korean Air Flight 902 veered into Soviet airspace and was attacked basically right there where the memorial stands today, over Murmansk by a PVO Su-15. Although the civilian aircraft survived the missile hit, two passengers were killed, and the damaged plane subsequently made a forced landing on a frozen lake. Five years later, in the Korean Air Flight 007 incident in 1983, a Korean Boeing 747 was shot down near Moneron Island, after it veered into restricted Soviet airspace, by a Su-15TM based on Sakhalin, killing all 246 passengers and 23 crew.

As if that “weren’t enough”, a close supersonic fly-by of Yuri Gagarin’s MiG-15 by an Su-15 led to Gagarin’s death in 1968.

In spite of this horrendous history (and my general dislike of weapon displays), the place itself is beautiful. From the center of Murmansk it takes about half-an-hour to an hour by car (depending on weather and road conditions), but this trip is rewarded by wonderful starry nights.

I took the above picture when the sky was graced by a full moon and that was enough to illuminate the whole scene. The picture details are: 13 seconds exposure (on a tripod, of course) at f. 4 and ISO 100.

 

 


Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking photographer (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions, while helping you to improve your technique and take home some spectacular images of the largest country on Earth? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!

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