Not long after the start of the year, I dropped in to Skrunda-2, the recreation of a Soviet-era town called “Skrunda-1” in Latvia. Designed by Titus Palmira, Sofie Janic and Megan Prumier, the region was a visit I very much enjoyed, so when Lien (Lien Lowe) dropped me the LM for the second iteration of the build – called Skrunda-3 -, I knew I’d have to drop back in and have a look around.
For those who have not visited previously, allow me to provide a little history to help frame this build: in the 1960s Russia established a radar facility some 5 kilometres from the Latvian regional centre of Skrunda as the home of two Hen House (Russian system name Destnr) first generation space surveillance / early warning radar systems. Its position within the Baltic state meant it was of major strategic importance to the Soviet military, having an uninterrupted view of airspace over the Western Hemisphere so it could “see” NATO / US space-based activities like missile launches. In fact, it was one of only two such facilities Russia constructed for this purpose in the 1960s, the other being near Murmansk, provide a view over the Arctic and north pole towards the United States.
Such was this strategic importance, that the radar station grew an entire town around it, supporting some 5,000 personnel and their families at its peak, offering them all the amenities they might expect: swimming pool, theatre, a school, and so on, and well as “Soviet typical” apartment blocks and more – including dedicated electrical power generation and water supply system, enabling it (again, in typical Soviet style) to be entirely self-contained.
As a military installation, Skrunda-1 served its purpose through to the 1980s, with the radar systems being upgraded over time, until the decision was made to use the site as the location for three state-of-the-art radar systems that would have been ready to start operations in the 1990s, however, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the new facilities were never completed. Instead, in the post-Soviet era, Russia reached an agreement with the Latvian authorities to continue to run the Destnr radars through until 1998, after which they had to dismantle them and withdraw from Lativa before the end of 1999 – which they did.
What was left behind became a ghost town, most of the buildings stripped bare but left standing, roads all in place – and something for the Latvian authorities to deal with. During the next 15 years, the town was left to nature’s ways, despite attempts to sell the land for redevelopment, around half of the land eventually being converted into a training ground for the Latvian national armed forces, although much of the deserted town still remains.
It is in this deserted, overgrown state that Skrunda-3 is offered – as was the case with Skrunda-2. However, whilst that version placed us fairly squarely within the residential parts of the town, this iteration offers more the the “business end” of the town and an iteration perhaps more rooted in the imagination of the builders. I say this because as far as I’m aware (and based on admittedly minimal research), Skrunda-1 was built far enough inland it does not have any form of deep water port, however, Skrunda-3 features an significant dockland area. expanding on a waterfront area found within Skrunda-2.
This is something that gives the region a unique flavour unto itself, and presents a feature that makes up from the absence of any radar facilities the Russians took with them when they left and in all likelihood, a more interesting environment to explore than a load of military blockhouses. To further offer a sense of continuation from Skrunda-2, this build also has some of the apartment blocks tucked to one side, suggesting that were we to walk beyond them, we’d find ourselves within the previous iteration of the design.
As with Shrunda-2, there is a lot of small details to be found within this build that make it something of a work of art in itself, from the graffiti on walls to the placement of the abandoned vehicles to the suggestions that either the town was deserted in a manner that saw possessions left behind, or that it has at times been used as a home by the dispossessed.
Where the former is concerned, there is a sense of family and abandonment within buildings and rooms; with the latter, there is a sense of loneliness and a feeling that despite those hidden souls who may have been forced to live among the deserted buildings have formed a community: within an open space, a stage for live music has been put together, completed with a battered – but presumably still tuneful – upright piano. A short distance away, a warehouse building has been converted into an art gallery, displaying images captured from within Skrunda-2. And over all of this, someone has even managed to restore electrical power, adding a further twist to the idea that whilst abandoned, the town enjoys a secret life.
Payment of L$150 brings visitors rezzing rights, allowing for photographic props and poses to be used, adding to the photogenic nature for the setting, while the supplied sound scape helps to give further depth to explorations.
Standing with echoes of Skrunda-2, and sharing a common historical heritage, Skrunda-3 is nevertheless entirely unique in its presentation and design, making it a further ideal visitor for the Second Life traveller.
- Skrunda-3 (Reynolds Hollow, rated General)