Anadyr has a very modern infrastructure and the port is overlooked by a distinctive wooden Russian Orthodox Church, one of the largest in Russia. However, the declining numbers of Indigenous peoples in Chukotka reflect the shared history of colonial oppression suffered by their Alaskan cousins across the Bering Strait.
In strong contrast to our recent 10-day river experience and upon our return to Anadyr, we learnt of an unusual landmark: the abandoned Gudym Missile Base, which had opened in 1961 just outside the city of Anadyr. So we decided to explore a relic of the Cold War: this secret Soviet facility contained enough nuclear missiles capable of destroying half the USA when the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed by the Soviet Union and the U.S. in 1987. Fortunately for us all, these missiles were never launched. The Gudym Missile Base closed in 1987 and was abandoned by 2002. After we had driven out of the city of Anadyr, we passed a large derelict Soviet Officer Housing community, as well as many crumbling military concrete blocks and lookout posts – all abandoned. Soon we found ourselves in front of the entrance to a surreal structure built into the high mountain. Here we found helmets and rifles still in their finely hand-sewn linen covers, old leather-bound records and handwritten inventories, all tossed on the ground. With torches in hand, we pushed open the heavy metal doors and walked down a rabbit-warren of long dark corridors with crumbling cement walls, scratched with graffiti. It was evident that much planning, cement, money and energy had gone into this massive, destructive arsenal of military weaponry. So we were mightily relieved to leave these oppressive tunnels and emerge into the sunshine. Clearly moved by what we had just seen both inside and outside this abandoned missile base – we gladly welcomed the spontaneous song performed by our noble driver, Timur…..