Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Soviet nuclear test ground Novaya Zemlya remained secret for decades before 1992

The Novaya Zemlya (New Land) archipelago is a northern extension of the Ural Mountains and consists of two islands separated with the Matochkin Shar strait. Both islands make up 900 kilometers longwise and have the square of 82.179 square kilometers. A bigger part of the northern island and partially the southern one are covered with glaciers. Within the period of September 21, 1955 – October 24, 1990 the Soviet Union performed 132 nuclear explosions on the northern polygon: 87 atmospheric, one surface, two above-water, three underwater and 42 underground explosions.

The Book of Mysteries, an informal bible of Russia’s adherents of UFOs and paranormal phenomena, tells a lot about the archipelago.

Ufologists say that an object located on Novaya Zemlya is a Russian analogue of the American object S-4/Area-51 in Nevada. In 1985, the Novaya Zemlya base was reformed and converted into storage for UFOs where they could be also studied. For the time being, there are four disk-shaped objects being kept at the base; at that, three of them are UFOs crashed in 1978, 1972 and 1984 and one aircraft ‘Rus’ made employing UFO technologies.

Entry to the islands is restricted. Few witnesses several times observed test flights of trophy UFOs. Recently, these flights became less frequent. Because of insufficient financing of the army the Russian military certainly have little chance for paranormal tests.

Before February 27, 1992 Novaya Zemlya was never officially mentioned as a polygon. In 1992, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree “On the Novaya Zemlya polygon”. Initially, the polygon was named “Object-700”. The Soviet Cabinet of Ministers decreed to build a nuclear center on Novaya Zemlya in 1954. To mislead inimical spies, it was decided to name the nuclear island by the name of a settlement Amderma that was in fact located 300 kilometers eastwards off the polygon. The activity on the islands was made super-secret: the secret service of Novaya Zemlya did not allow civilians to the island within a long period of time.

In fact, a regiment of Soviet Su-27 planes was the only UFO base that was kept on the nuclear archipelago. Other flying objects were immediately identified and either kept off (like foreign scout planes) or shot down (like unmanned airships).

Those who saw Su-27 standing on its fuselage noticed that its form and outward geometry are rather unusual. Standing on it feels like being on something extraterrestrial.

The secrecy of Novaya Zemlya was also used for other purposes. When the Soviet authorities did not want some person leave abroad they could send him to Novaya Zemlya for work or service. That secret work implied that the person still could not leave the USSR for some foreign country even within the next five years after his period of service or work on the island expired.

Today the situation is quite different. A man who comes from the archipelago has none of the problems that people could have years ago. The civilian population of Novaya Zemlya that obeys the civil authorities of the city of Arkhangelsk now makes up about 1,000 people not subject to call-up.

It is believed that the 132 nuclear tests performed on the archipelago left no victims. But it is not quite true as many experimental animals died during the tests and people died several years after the tests which was highly likely the aftereffect of nuclear explosions on Novaya Zemlya.

Rear admiral I.Pargamon tells that in 1955 he was the captain of the S-19 submarine. Ships of his brigade were equidistant from the epicenter of an atomic detonation. The distance was estimated by researchers. In the epicenter a raid mine sweeper stood with a special device on the mast that emitted a radio signal to blow up an atomic charge. Witnesses observed a fiery dome of a mushroom cloud growing before their eyes. Burning fragments of the ship that stood in the epicenter shot up. But soon the ominous cloud disappeared, and the whole of the place sank in silence. Later when the seamen approached the shores they saw a deformed hull of the ship lying on the beach. That was a rather oppressive sight for them.

The read admiral tells that another test was performed in two years. The submarine under his command was ordered to touch bottom at the depth of 60 meters at a distance of 600 meters from the epicenter of an atomic explosion. It was meant that the submarine and experimental animals – dogs and sheep – in its tanks must experience the result of an atomic explosion.

The water surface in the area of the test suddenly went up, powerful boom and thunder sounded and next burning fragments of the Grozny torpedo-boat destroyer blew up and the ship slowly went down. Another torpedo-boat destroyer followed the first soon. Many of other ships and submarines were also destroyed or seriously damaged. The submarine commanded by I.Pargamon remained safe, and the experimental animals on board were also safe and sound. Aid-men immediately put the animals into sacks and took them up to the deck. In two days, the crew of the submarine boarded it. “Now I realize how shocking it is that nobody estimated what the radiation level on board was,” the rear admiral says.

The third underwater atomic explosion was performed in autumn of 1961, on the eve of tests of Andrei Sakharov’s 50 megaton H-bomb. Witnesses said that was a terrible sight either. First a knoll of about 10 meters in diameter appeared on the water surface and began to grow rapidly. Then suddenly a mushroom column of water appeared and grew up to 30 meters.

Sounds of atomic explosions are quite rare on Novaya Zemlya now. Only subcritical tests that are safe for testers and the environment are conducted there. These are models of nuclear explosions performed to see the state of Russian atomic vaults.

People who once participated in atomic tests on Novaya Zemlya lived their lives their own way. Some chose to forget the dreadful experience and others were seeking after the status of atomic test victims. The attitude to atomic tests in Russia changed several times within a rather short period of time. At first, the authorities demanded to perform many atomic explosions frequently. Then, the attitude radically changed and people who had executed the orders to perform atomic explosions were outlawed. And now Russia is retrieving its status of a great nuclear power which must be the pride of the nation.

Translated by Maria Gousseva