One of the 13 villages that form part of the north-east German town of Zehdenik in Brandenburg is called Vogelsang. It was founded back in the 18th century. What drew the first settlers were the widespread forests, where locals could rely on timber for their livelihoods. In 1882, Vogelsang became part of the state forest of Gutsbezirk Zehdenik.
This place has always been difficult to access because of the dense forests, but in the 20th century, it was this feature that made the area an ideal location for a secret military base.
After World War II, the Soviet army took over an area of 2,000 hectares within the forest near Vogelsang. In 1951, the army began clearing the area and built its own barracks town. The town became home to Soviet tank and artillery divisions, service personnel, and their families. A year later, it housed about 15,000 people.
The Soviet Vogelsang base became the third-largest Soviet base in East Germany, and it was also one of the few complexes that was purpose-built by the Russians. It had about 550 buildings, including shops, offices, a gym, a school, a theater, and medical facilities. There were also tanks as well as anti-aircraft, tactical, and nuclear missiles.
The Soviet army wanted the base to be completely secret. They did not want the nearby German population to notice what they were doing inside the town, especially since they were secretly moving nuclear weapons into the area. Their efforts proved successful because the locals had no idea what was going on within the Soviet garrison town.
The Vogelsang base was always ready to launch nuclear weapons against Europe in defense of the Soviet Union. Military maneuvers and various exercises inside the walls were held exclusively at night, to avoid surveillance.
Soviet military records seem to indicate that all nuclear weapons were removed in 1959. However, subsequent intelligence gained by the CIA and British Military Intelligence among others, suggests that the weapons might have still been there right up until the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is still unclear.
From the 1960s, this facility was the headquarters of the 25th Tank Division. Then, in 1994, the troops of the Russian army were withdrawn from the base. The soldiers took everything they could, and they left the town partially destroyed. However, evidence of their occupation there remained for some time.
In the center of the town, there was an obelisk on which you could see the silhouette of Lenin. Near the abandoned buildings urban explorers would often find various old papers, photos, and posters. There were also drawings and frescoes on the walls of various premises, their paint slowly peeling as the years marched on.
Nature is gradually taking over this former military town, including the theater, shops, gym, and school. Access is restricted due to ammunition residues making parts of the site unsafe.
At present, the buildings in Vogelsang are being demolished, taking their Soviet past with them. Photographer CarloR visited the place three times, and from his photos, it is possible to see that each time there were fewer and fewer buildings there. Now, all the buildings in the north have been demolished and the bunkers are closed forever.
The photographer, CarloR, runs a blog about his travels. He likes to visit places that do not usually fit into typical travel plans. Before each trip, he carefully plans all the details and uncovers as much as he can about the history of his chosen location.
Afterward, he openly shares everything that he has learned as well as his experiences upon reaching his destination.
CarloR also takes many detailed photographs of his explorations and publishes them in an article. Visit his website and feel free to contact him with any questions about trips you might have.
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