It was used by the Soviet Navy from the 1950s to 1991

A former secret submarine base in Estonia and its important role in the Cold War

In June 1940, after his failure in the invasion of Finland, Stalin set out to invade the small republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The three World War II submarines that are buried under the port of Hamburg
Kotor: an abandoned secret submarine base on the shores of the Adriatic Sea

This invasion had been previously agreed upon between the Germans and the Soviets in the secret protocol of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of August 1939, by which those two totalitarian regimes divided Poland between themselves. Following the Soviet invasion, the USSR deported more than 20,000 Estonian men, women and children, sending many of them to Siberia, from where many would never return. One year after the Soviet invasion of the Baltic republics, Germany invaded the USSR and with it Estonia, beginning a new occupation with more crimes (more than 10,000 Estonians, including 4,300 Jews, were murdered by the nazis) and which would end in the autumn of 1944, when the Soviets reoccupied Estonia.

An aerial photo of the Hara submarine base (Photo: Visit Estonia).

Estonians lived under the Soviet communist yoke until 1991, when their country regained independence. The last Russian military (the USSR had disappeared on December 26, 1991) withdrew from Estonia in 1994. Before regaining its independence, this small republic was used by the Soviet Armed Forces to establish multiple military bases.

The base facilities, today in ruins (Photo: Diego Delso).

One of these bases was secret and was located on the northern coast of Estonia: the Hara submarine base, located in what is now the Lahemaa National Park. This base was built between 1956 and 1958 and This base had an important role in the Cold War, in which submarines waged a silent and undeclared war under the waters of different seas and oceans.

The interior of the old base, full of graffiti (Photo: Visit Estonia).

One of the fundamental characteristics of a submarine is that it is difficult to detect both due to its acoustic signature (using a sonar) and its magnetic signature (using a MAD, magnetic anomaly detector). Specifically, the Hara base served to demagnetize Soviet submarines and make them more undetectable, so that they could get as close as possible to the coasts of NATO countries for intelligence infiltration operations and also for a possible attack with SLBMs (submarine launch nuclear missiles).

The base was abandoned by the Soviets in 1991, after removing all military material (Photo: Diego Delso).

This demagnetization process not only made Soviet submarines less detectable, but also made them less susceptible to being sunk by magnetic sea mines. The Hara base had the code name Military Unit Number 53083, and it was one of the few facilities of this type that the USSR had at its disposal. After Estonian independence, the Russians took away all the base's systems and left only an empty concrete skeleton.

The facilities used for the degaussing process of Soviet submarines (Photo: Visavillem).

The former Hara base eventually became a paradise for graffiti artists and urban explorers. Today, Hara is a tourist destination where Paid tours are organized to see the former Soviet submarine base. A few months ago, Dimidrone published an interesting video showing images of this old secret submarine baserecorded by drone:


Main photo: Visit Estonia.

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