The original Stalin Line was a line of fortifications along the western border of the Soviet Union. Work began on the system in the 1920s to protect the USSR against “western aggression.” The line was made up of fortified bunkers and gun emplacements, similar but less elaborate than the Maginot Line (and equally ineffective).
Following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which expanded the borders of the USSR westward in 1939 and 1940, into Poland, the Baltic, and Bessarabia the decision was made to abandon the line in favor of constructing the so-called Molotov Line further west, along the new border of the USSR. A number of Russian generals felt that it would be better to keep both lines and have defense in depth, but this conflicted with the pre-World War II Soviet military doctrine. And given the pace of Stalin’s purges, no one was particularly enthusiastic about coming out forcefully against orders from above.
Thus the guns were moved, but were mostly in storage as the new line began construction. The 1941 German invasion caught the Soviets with their pants down as the new line was unfinished and the Stalin Line largely abandoned and in disrepair. Thus, neither was of much use in stopping the onslaught of Operation Barbarossa.
Following World War II, the Stalin Line was not maintained, in part due to its wide dispersal across the USSR. Unlike in Western Europe, where similar fortifications were demolished for development and safety reasons, much of the line survived beyond the breakup of the USSR in 1991 due to simply being ignored. Today, the remains are located in Belarus, Finland, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.
Although the Stalin Line itself in no longer operational, there is still a significant military complex located along a piece of the Line in Belarus. Given the history of the Stalin Line, Nigel and Andy and I headed out to take a look and to see if we might have any luck getting to interview soldiers in the area and to get some good video footage for the Discovery Channel (for whom we were filming after they lent us one of their cameras).
This was our first look at the military base – which led us to consider sneaking on…
…But then after getting a closer look at the security in place…
…And being confronted by this guard, we decided it would be far more prudent not to attempt such a move. So, instead, we decided to try to bribe our way onto the base.
We ambled over to the main entrance and following a fairly brief, but awkward, conversation with these guards (below) and after handing over a thick stack of Belorussian rubles (not worth that much), we were in.
We headed over to the remnants of the Stalin Line first. It is still maintained here.
Down in one of the trenches.
A gun emplacement protected by barbed wire, armor and reinforced concrete.
I think some of the guards were rather surprised to see us just wandering around, but I can’t really blame them.
It also didn’t stop us from heading down into the bunker complex though.
A space could be opened here, allowing the defenders of the Stalin Line (now the base) to pour destruction and death into the valley below.
And there is plenty of lighter firepower available inside as well.
I have no idea what this guy was saying to us, but he didn’t seem happy we were down there. So, I took his picture.
One of the guards at the main gate (whom we bribed to get in) spoke enough English to convey to us (aside from his being able to negotiate our entrance “fee”) that there was a site in the valley below the military complex where a battle had taken place between German and Soviet forces during World War II that was worth seeing. Apparently, the Germans were overconfident about the safety of the area and had a convoy attacked. It was amazing to see so much of this stuff just laying around as it was left so many decades ago. Thank God for Communist neglect. In a Western country, this would have been tidied up and cleared away.
You can still see the German Balkenkreuz (also known as the Greek cross) on the side of this tank. The straight-armed Balkenkreuz, which is a stylized version of the Iron Cross, was the emblem of the World War II Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine.
Symbolic American domination of both World War II and the Cold War?
An old boy who had seen us bribe our way onto the base (and emphatically did not want his picture taken) approached us as we were returning from the battle site pictured above. Seeing that we were interested in the military equipment, and since we had already proved ourselves to be shady characters by paying our way into the military complex, he apparently felt comfortable with us. The man communicated that everything we could see around us was for sale at the right price and started selling us on the various equipment and weapons systems.
The sales lot:
And the sales office:
Leading us inside to talk business and show us more products:
And it was a nice, cozy place to do business indeed – even equipped with a woodstove.
All manner of ammunition, explosives and light weapons systems were stored in here. And all of it was for sale. Bunkers like this are ground zero for the proliferation of former Eastern bloc weapons into the conflicts of the developing world.
It takes a lot to shock me these days, but even I was shocked at how easy it would have been to leave with a crate of hand grenades or AK-47s. Or a MiG fighter jet if we’d had enough money…
Here is a sampling of some of the heavier equipment we were offered such as missile systems, fighter jets and helicopter gunships:
Imagine how much possession of a Hind helicopter gunship would enhance my latent plans to seize control, via a coup d’ etat, of a basket case African country!
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I feel priveliged to have stumbled onto this site, it’s amazing. More please. I thought I’d seen the last of WW2 secrets when I visited the Complex Riese in Poland last year and the myths and mysteries that surround it, but this is something else.
Well, Michael, those are awfully kind words and I thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed my site.
Sounds as if you’ve had some interesting travels of your own?
Hi Justin, fascinating! Interestingly though some of the destroyed vehicles in the convoy are almost surely BTR152’s which was a soviet armoured personnel carrier from the 1950’s. Also the tank has the same wheel arrangement as the grey tracked vehicle further down the pictures which I suspect is also from the 50’s – 60’s era and is painted as an ‘aggressor’ much like the american airforce aircraft used for training. I know this may appear a ‘sad’ but the point is there maybe something more to the story you were told.
Great pictures, are there any more. Well done!
Thank you for your comment, Andy. Yes, there are definitely some Soviet vehicles sprinkled in to the convoy. When I shot the video, I was so cold that I couldn’t think straight and did not accurately identify the vehicles. And then with the post on my web site, I just wrote down what the base personnel told me, although I had my doubts about some of the vehicles. I’m certainly no expert though and so I have appreciated learning from individuals such as yourself that know much more about these vehicles than I do. Haha, if you scroll through the comments section, you’ll see there is a lot of disagreement about the vehicles in the convoy. I don’t know enough to argue one way or the other myself, but it is fun to watch the debates and, like I said, I’ve learned a lot.
Very interesting post! I’ve only been on this side of the old iron currtin
but, at that time their stuff was not for sale! I have seen some interesting
WWII Japanese and Korean battlefileds in my time and a few in Europe
as well….would love to have made it into Russia!
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the old Russian sites, Donald. Hope you’re able to make it over there someday.
Justin Ames – please contact me on my private mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . I’d like to talk to you more about postsoviet bases and equipment in the former USSR.
Thanks and regards from Poland!
I would love to go here! Mind if I ask if those cars that were wreaked for sale?
It is worth visiting, Xavier. And in response to your question – everything is for sale in Belarus…
wow. Thanx for sharing this. Nice. Do you know the Prize on the SideCar McBike. If its Russian,and old..not so much, BUT if its German, wow..has Reverse, h/l gear and 2 wd. Expenciv it is.
Lots of nice Russian stuff ther.
Do you have any other photos of the German tank? I’m having a devil of a time trying to identify it! It doesn’t look like any German, Soviet, American, British, Polish, French, Czech, Hungarian or Romanian armored vehicles that I have compared it to! I am thinking maybe pictures from different angles might help.
No, I am afraid that is the only one. Winter in Belarus is not conducive to the taking of pictures as one’s hands freeze quite quickly.
Bummer! Do you have a higher resolution version of that picture, even?
I would like to buy a jet fighter or two…for airshows. Would it be possible? Whom to contact there?
Are you interesting still? Please contact me email@example.com
This post is awesome! I am a fan of military history and urbex (you can check my humble urbex blog at http://urbexzone.wordpress.com) and I am going to Belarus in May. Tell me something, if you can: how much did you actually handle the guys to get in…? Is there anything of the kind to be seen out of the perimeter, let’s say, in a more “legal” way?
Thank you for your comment and kind words. I visited the Stalin Line a few years ago and, as I understand it, it is now a museum open to the public. So, if you’re still interested, you should have no trouble getting in. Not sure if they’ll offer to sell you any Hinds though…
Please give us some coordinates. I’d love to look at this in Google Earth!
Unfortunately there isn’t much to be seen on Google Earth, but here you go:
54° 3.496’N 27° 17.823’E
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Somebody asked about the tank with Balkencreutz.
First i tought it had some kind of Marder II-III chassis.
But the suspension system dont look like an Marder.
Then i found the Russian T-40 and T-70 Light Tanks and it looks like T-40 chassis with T-70 gun and turret, its doesnt look like a german gun anyway.
I don’t think it is… the suspension doesn’t match that of a T-40. I think that the “German tank” is actually a mock-up built on top of the same vehicle featured in the later picture (https://thevelvetrocket.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/n563903375_1364860_6518813.jpg), though I’m not sure what kind of vehicle THAT is.
If you look at the higher resolution picture of the “German tank” you can see that the turret is sitting on top of a square welded box of relatively thin steel.
Also, although the turret looks a little similar to the one from the T-70, it’s not the same. Check out; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/T-70_in_Velikiy_Novgorod.JPG
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Amazing, I would love to aquire a MT-LB ( the low, wide armoured vehicle in four colour camo in two of the photos). I suspect though that it is one thing to ‘buy’ it and quite another to get it out of the country. I assume they are still in the army!
I’d love to get my hands on one of those Hinds…. Same problems though as David mentions :-)
I wouldn’t have minded having a Hind in my backyard either, but it would have been difficult to bring such a toy home…
Hi Justin. I stumbled across this blog after seeing the video on Youtube. I’m glad I did!
Keep up the great work..
Greetings from Switzerland
Thank you, Tom, for the comment and the Swiss greeting. I don’t mean to sound corny, but comments like yours inspire me to keep posting and writing.
is the willys jeep mb for sale
Burned civil car looks to be Gaz Popeda.
Motorbike is Dnepr Mt-9 except the tank is possibly from Izh Jupiter 3.
Second truck wreck is Gaz 51/63
The tank at the end is ISU-152
Still getting over the fact that you could have purchased a MiG-29 Fulcrum (essentially a Soviet F-16), a MiG-25 Foxbat, the fastest combat aircraft in the world (along with the MiG-31 Foxhound, both Mach 2.83 capable) which still holds the absolute altitude record for an aircraft set in 1977 at 123,000 feet! Even spotted a MiG-23 Flogger and an old MiG-21 in the photos, haha! Awesome stuff…I ended up here after following a link from the coup-de-tat thesis you wrote. If you had the bucks you could buy that MiG-25 and setup a joy flights company…
Great post and very informative. Thank you!