Visit the Naval Museum Complex Balaklava

Built during the Cold War as a top-secret military facility, the Naval Museum Complex Balaklava is an underground submarine base located in Balaklava Bay in Ukraine’s Crimea region. The facility is currently open to the public, and incorporates a museum dedicated to the Crimean War of 1853-1856. The town of Balaklava was designated as part of the city of Sevastopol in 1957 under the Soviet Government.

With its strategic position on Balaklava Bay, the town has featured in many battles for power since it was founded by the Ancient Greeks prior to the Middle Ages. During the period following the devastating World War II, the two superpowers of the time – the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – entered into an ‘arms race’ where each added to their nuclear arsenal while threatening one another with nuclear warfare. During this time, referred to as the ‘Cold War’, Joseph Stalin gave an order to find a location where the Russians could secretively base submarines to make a retaliatory nuclear strike against the USA, should that become necessary. The town of Balaklava was chosen and immediately designated as a classified location, and the bay, which is not visible from the open sea, became the submarine base Stalin wanted. Between 1957 and 1961 an underground complex was built, requiring the removal of an estimated 120 tons of rock, an activity which was carried out at night by barges that dumped the rock in the open sea.

The base remained in operation until 1993, after which it was abandoned and left unguarded. This reportedly resulted in some looting of the facility and in the year 2000 it was handed over to the Armed forces of Ukraine, with the museum founded in December 2002. Visitors to the Naval Museum Complex Balaklava can explore an underground portion of the plant, a marine pier and several buildings, including the base’s arsenal. It is interesting to note the solid construction of the tunnels which were made to withstand attack and offer protection for the approximately 1,500 military personnel as well as the inhabitants of the town of Balaklava.