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Cold War Museum

  • 2011-12-07
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

 VILNIUS - In November, a new museum was opened in the former Soviet secret base for nuclear missiles in Zemaitija (or Samogitia) National Park near the Lithuanian town of Plunge. It is called the Cold War Museum and is the only such museum in Europe. The museum’s establishment was financed with 6.5 million litas (1.9 million euros) from EU structural funds.

The Soviets started to build this secret military base for their nuclear missiles in 1960. Then 10,000 Soviet soldiers were brought, mostly from Estonia, to dig holes for four silos, where later four nuclear missiles were placed. The  forest-surrounded territory of the base is some 20 hectares. Each missile weighed more than 40 tons and the weight of the warhead was over 1,500 kilograms. These surface-to-surface missiles had a radius of a little less than 2,500 kilometers, i.e. they could cover almost the entire Europe, except Spain and Portugal.

It was the first Soviet military base with nuclear missiles situated underground (there were also nuclear missiles above ground situated near the Lithuanian towns of Ukmerge, Karmelava and Taurage). Visitors to the Cold War Museum can look down into an authentic silo for a nuclear missile, of some 30 meters depth, and visit secret tunnels of the former military base. The nuclear missile base near Plunge was functioning until 1978. Some sources say that U.S. reconnaissance found out about the existence of the base in 1978.

During the Soviet occupation, Lithuanians had no clue that nuclear missiles were based on their territory. Even after the collapse of the USSR, this theme was rather unknown for the average Lithuanian.
The concept of the Cold War Museum was created by Vladimir Orlov, who is a researcher on war history, from Kaunas. There are some smaller missiles of the Cold War-era on show at the museum. The museum’s exhibition also presents original posters with instructions on how to behave in case of nuclear attack, various propaganda posters and videos, such as the signing of a disarmament treaty with participation of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Communist Party Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Cold War Museum is open from 10:00 to 17:00 on Tuesdays-Fridays and on Saturdays from 10:00 to 16:00 in November. It will be open from 10:00 to 17:00 on Mondays-Thursdays and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Fridays in December-March. During the rest of the year, it is open from 10:00 to 18:00 every day. The last excursion of the day always starts one hour before the closing time. Those who plan to visit this former nuclear missile base can call +370 677 86 574 in advance to find out more details.