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Under the barbed wire: Life in closed cities through the eyes of ordinary people
Under the barbed wire: Life in closed cities through the eyes of ordinary people

Residents of closed cities - Znamensk, Seversk and Trekhgorny - are separated from the outside world by a high fence and the military at the checkpoint. The border is guarded as a state border. In total, there are thirty-eight settlements in Russia with a special security regime. Getting into the fenced area is very difficult, especially for tourists. There is a low crime rate, a quiet and measured life - on the one hand, on the other - vague prospects.

Read more about life in closed cities through the eyes of ordinary people in the RIA Novosti article.

Nowhere to work

Igor Lozinsky was born in 1970 in Znamensk, Astrakhan Region. His ancestors settled on this place long before the Kapustin Yar rocket range appeared here in 1947. Igor is from a family of hereditary military men - his father served 26 years, his son decided to follow in his footsteps. After studying at school, Lozinsky went to Ukraine, graduated from a technical school and worked at a factory. “Then he passed military service in the ranks of the Soviet army. He entered the Volsk Higher Military School. After graduation, I was assigned to Irkutsk for a year. Then they were transferred back to their native land - to the Kapustin Yar training ground,”he tells RIA Novosti.

After serving twenty-two years, Igor was laid off in 1998. A year later, he got a job as a deputy director at the only university in Znamensk - a branch of the Astrakhan State University, where he works to this day. “In total, we have about 450 students, recruited in three specialties:“psychological and pedagogical”,“pedagogical”and“information systems and technologies”.

The population of Znamensk is about 30 thousand. “The choice of professions is modest - not everyone wants to be teachers. Boys, as a rule, go to military universities. And the girls either leave or get married, - Igor continues. - Most of the civilian personnel are employed in military units. Young people are leaving - there is nowhere to work. In a big city there are many opportunities, but here everything is limited by a fence."

Igor adds: the university has plans to open a branch in Akhtubinsk, an open city fifty kilometers from Znamensk. “We have already looked after buildings for an educational building and a hostel. We hope that we will repair it in a year and start accepting nonresident people who do not have the opportunity to get to us. There will be more specialties.”

“I got used to my soul”

The first Closed Administrative Territorial Formations (ZATO) appeared in the 1940s, when work was underway in the USSR to create an atomic bomb. Previously, only employees of enterprises and their relatives could get there. All others were denied entry. Residents were not allowed to divulge information about themselves and their activities, violators were brought to criminal responsibility. All these inconveniences were offset by premiums and good social security. “People came to us, climbed over the fences to buy. Especially in times of total deficit in the late 1980s: there is nothing on the shelves in open cities, but we have plenty of everything,”recalls Igor Lozinsky.

In the early nineties, the secrecy status was removed. Today, you can get to the city with a pass, a passport with a permanent residence permit or travel documents. Nonresident guests must receive an official invitation from the locals and be tested. Igor admits: the newcomers, according to them, seem to be returning to the USSR. “We have quarters with two-story Stalinist buildings, in the courtyards the men are going to cut themselves into a“goat”.Nearby there is a playground where the grandmother stands by the window and watches her granddaughter playing in the sandbox. And when her favorite cartoons begin, she will shout to the whole yard: “Svetka! Home!" The guests see this, some are very surprised”.

Igor likes that the city is calm and quiet, but he would not like to stay here all his life. He has two daughters - the eldest left after the 11th grade for Moscow, is studying in the magistracy of the Russian State University of Oil and Gas named after I. M. Gubkin, working in her specialty. And the youngest went to college in Astrakhan this year, but wants to retake the Unified State Exam and enter the same university as her sister. Igor's wife is a military man, has been serving for 12 years, and leads the orchestra. She prepares for retirement, after which the family plans to move. “It is good to raise and educate children here before they leave school. They need to realize themselves in life elsewhere. And if you have become attached to your soul, you can always return and meet old age here,”concluded Igor Lozinsky.

First Builders

Svetlana Berezovskaya is from Seversk, Chelyabinsk Region. Her parents were here in the year the city was founded - in 1954. “They were, one might say, the first builders. Mom is from Tomsk: after the orphanage she was sent to study as a signalman, at that time they were sorely lacking. Then she worked at the telephone exchange of the Siberian Chemical Combine. Dad came from the city of Volzhsky in the Samara region to Tomsk to study at a technical school, then he was assigned to the same plant,”Svetlana tells RIA Novosti.

Central checkpoint in the closed city of Seversk

After graduating from the history faculty of Tomsk State University, she returned back and got a job as a researcher at the Museum of the city of Seversk. “I have been working here for 26 years. The last ten are as director. There were job offers in Tomsk, but I refused. I love my city,”Svetlana admits.

She recalls her childhood with special trepidation: “Previously, the city was well financed. In my school years, I was engaged in speed skating: sportswear was given out for free, skates were specially sewn for me. We took part in competitions, traveled all over Siberia”.

The interlocutor notes that it is difficult for a museum in a closed city: “I am trying to take into account the specifics of Seversk. As a rule, the same people come to exhibitions. We invite famous museum workers from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Tomsk. We apply for various grants. We are trying to keep up with the times and introduce modern technologies - for example, we acquired virtual reality glasses two years ago. We also arrange interactive installations, adapting them for people with disabilities”.

In the museum of the city of Seversk

Open city

This year, Seversk entered the zone of the Territory of Advanced Social and Economic Development (TOP). According to Berezovskaya, there is hope that the city will begin to develop faster. “My daughter moved to St. Petersburg, graduated from the University of Architecture, works there. In Seversk, there was no way to unlearn such a profession. In Tomsk - nothing suitable for work. And there are a lot of those who have faced such a problem - this is the young generation that is eager to realize themselves in the profession”.

Svetlana really wants the city with a population of more than 100 thousand people to become open, now there is not enough dynamics here, “and it would be easier to develop a museum”. “In general, young people have something to do with themselves - three theaters, two houses of culture, a cinema, an indoor skating rink, 15 museums.”

However, not everyone shares her optimism. Anastasia Yanova, a twenty-three-year-old resident of Seversk, in an interview with RIA Novosti, admitted that she regularly travels to Tomsk with her friends, because “it’s more interesting there,” besides, the center is only half an hour away. Anastasia is a physicist in her final year at the Seversk Technological Institute. He does not deny that if he finds a good job with a decent salary, he will leave Seversk.


The plant is stability

Valery Gegerdava has been living in Trekhgorny, Chelyabinsk Region since 2003.He himself comes from Troitsk, studied in Chelyabinsk at the Faculty of Space, and then, by assignment, ended up at the Rosatom Instrument-Making Plant. He worked as an engineer, later headed one of the standardization departments.

“During the period of work at the plant, we could not serve in the army. Many of the acquaintances, as soon as they turned 28, left here, - he tells RIA Novosti. - Of course, it was difficult for me at first: the 30-thousandth town after the millionaire-Chelyabinsk, I rushed from one edge to the other, the lack of scope crushed. But he decided to stay, and Trekhgorny eventually became a family. It is good here - clean, mountainous terrain, forests”.

He says that every second person in Trekhgorny is employed at the enterprise: “A plant is stability”. Nevertheless, those whose “work is not related to the specifics of the city” have modest salaries, so people tend to go to the mainland.

Trekhgorny town

Adult youth

Valery has two children. He does not hide: he would like them to leave the closed city. “Our students study at the branch of the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. There is also a technical school at the university, there are many working specialties. But if a child wants to become, for example, a historian or biologist, he will not have such an opportunity here”.

Gegerdava complains that at the age of forty he practically has nowhere to go in his free time: “The only entertainment for“adult youth”is a vegetable garden, a summer residence and a bathhouse. There used to be a large playground. I played billiards, I love him very much. But now it has been closed. " In addition, the housing stock in the city is becoming outdated, there are problems with medicine: “We once went to a traumatologist in a hospital, which is a hundred kilometers from home. We treat teeth in the city of Sadko in private paid clinics - forty kilometers away. Local people wait in line to see the oncologist for two months.”


Valery often visits Trekhgorny. “I see that they are afraid to let the children go for walks alone. And we have children in the courtyards all day long - everything is like in the Soviet Union. The youngest walk to the pool three minutes, five - to the acrobatics classes, ten - to the music room”.

And he ends his story: “I want to say that our people are very sincere and friendly. Everyone respects each other and is always ready to help.”

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