Just a few years ago the main entrance of Bunker 42 on Kotelnicheskiy 5th lane in Moscow could have been easily confused for a common building from the end of 18th century. Instead, under its foundations it’s hided a long-range air force command-post of Strategic Nuclear Forces of Soviet Union.
Today it’s a museum dedicated to Cold War, a period in modern history which started soon after World War II (WWII) and ended in 1991.
At the end of WWII two significant attacks by USA ended the conflict with Japan: Hiroshima 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki 9 August 1945. Despite the destructive power of atomic bombs, all winning powers looked at atomic devices as their deterrent to enemy forces.
Along the decades USSR and USA reached in several occasion the boiling point which almost ended in a nuclear conflict, to mention a few during Korean war 1950-1953, Vietnam war 1955-1975 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
On September 29th 1949 the first Soviet atomic bomb was tested in Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan.
During those experiments USSR was not not just testing the destructive power of nuclear bombs, but also the effects of radiation on animals under different environments. Real buildings and infrastructures have been built to understand which was the most effective way to defend from nuclear attack, including bunkers of different depths.
Bunker 42 was built between 1950 and 1956 following above discoveries.
On the top of it there is a dome 9 meters high, its walls are 6 meters wide and made of reinforce concrete , which should enable to protect the bunker from the shock waves, heat and radiation caused by a nuclear attack.
Crossed 3 lines of blast doors, is the entrance to a vertical shaft 54 meters depth.
The underground tunnels
The underground facility was initially obtained by mining shaft vertically and then horizontally when workers reached a dept of 54 meters. Each section is lined with cast with iron segments, bolted together allows the corridors to be waterproof, a special ventilation system to filter radiation and energy reserve.
In total the bunker covers a surface of 7.000 sq. meters, is divided in 4 sections.
- Section 1 & 2: we were located telephones and telegraphs communication rooms; section 1 included also food stock. The bunker should have been operational for 30 days, the time which was consider sufficient to counter-attack the enemies. Other bunkers around the city were instead dedicated to protect the population.
- Section 3: life supporting system was allocated here. The 3 generators (500kw each) would have provided electricity to the bunker by using 100 tons of diesel. Section 3 also had 2 artisan wells to provide pure-drinking water and ventilation system.
- Section 4: hosted the command post, the one in charge to communicate with air-force in case of atomic attack from enemies.
- Second exit: which connected to Moscow metro line to allow a safe escape if the building on top of the bunker would have collapsed.
Overall bunker-42 was able to host around 600 people during the same shift, for a total of 2.000 employees in total between militarizes, communication specialists and support employees.
Inside the tunnels are located several check-points where all employees were required to show their permits. Each employee was allowed to enter only to specific areas in order to maintain secrecy.
Command and control center
Section number four, located at the center of the bunker, hosted the command center. It’s objective was to maintain uninterrupted and operational the communication within USSR’s armies in case of military attack.
Today is possible to visit section four where are still visible checking points, a command point and adjacent control point which was used to send coded orders to air-force. In a tunnel is simulated an air-attack and in the last area are displayed many uniforms, projects and posters in the bunker (unfortunately it’s not possible to take photos in that area).Bunker 42 is an interesting alternative to the classic touristic tours in Moscow and a mirror of our close past.