Before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Army had bases across the USSR. One such military hub was located in Veszprém, Hungary, and featured both a useable airbase and a barracks town. With the Soviets having now vacated the area, it has been left to the elements and has begun its return to nature.
To learn more about the Soviet Union’s presence across Europe, check out Carlos R.’s book, Soviet Ghosts in Germany.
Construction during the Cold War
The town of Szentkirályszabadja was built during the 1960s to house Soviet soldiers and their families stationed at the airbase in Veszprém. While the majority of the town was constructed during this time, the airbase and its annexed training school dated back to the 1930s.
The barracks town was made to be self-sustaining and had all the amenities of a regular city. Along with the residential barracks, it also had a movie theater, restaurants, schools, a library, shops and a hospital.
Szentkirályszabadja continued to thrive and be staffed with military personnel until the 1980s, when it became clear the USSR was beginning to crumble. The exodus of residents was rather slow, as soldiers were given until 1996 to pack up their belongings and return to Russia.
The collapse of the Soviet Union saw a shift in global strategy. As such, the 1990s were years of great change in countries that had once been under the communist umbrella. To remove traces of the Soviets from Hungarian soil, the government decided to demolish military structures, including Veszprém.
While Szentkirályszabadja became a veritable ghost town, the airbase still saw use by those within the Hungarian military and in the commercial airline industry. The helicopter pad was in service until the Hungarian Defense Force became defunct in 2004, while a private company ran the commercial flights.
Following the removal of Soviet military personnel, Veszprém was left largely unguarded, meaning many of its buildings were looted for materials, including wood and metal.
Ghosts of the past
The majority of the buildings that made up Szentkirályszabadja have been left in disrepair. Roofs have collapsed, and broken windows and doorways have allowed vegetation to creep inside many of the quarters. Nature has overrun the hangars at the airbase, and the town’s streets are covered with weeds and greenery.
There has been some demolition work visible throughout the town as evidence of the Hungarian government’s decision to tear down Veszprém’s various structures. Large commercial storage units have also been constructed close to the site.
The airbase appears to have been completely abandoned, with no flights coming in or out. There is the possibility that it could become operational once more, as there is still a control tower on site. However, it would require a lot of restoration work to bring the hangars back up to working order.
As of 2020, Veszprém has become a matter of dispute amongst surrounding municipalities, as they vie to obtain the land for other uses. Until a decision is made, it appears that both the airbase and barracks town will continue to be reclaimed by nature.