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"We show on excursions - how to prevent war"

Artur Romanenko about the pearls of military historical tourism in Vladivostok

Vladivostok digger club is the oldest organization in Vladivostok, engaged in military-historical tourism. Today, diggers regularly conduct military historical excursions and excursions to underground objects, read open lectures in city libraries, conduct research and work to preserve the legacy of the past underground. As the Vladivostok diggers have made underground tourism system and fashionable, about a complex of unique defensive structures of the Vladivostok fortress and other objects, the founder of the Vladivostok digger club, Artur Romanenko EastRussia, said for the project "Unsuccessful".

"We show on excursions - how to prevent war"
Photo: courtesy of Artur Romanenko
Arthur Romanenko is a native Primorye: he was born and raised in Vladivostok. He studied at the Faculty of Ecology at the Far Eastern State University (now FENU is part of the Far Eastern Federal University. - EastRussia). From the eighth grade he was fond of journalism: he wrote stories in the children's and youth newspaper "Surf". In the newspaper he had friends with whom they began to engage in extreme tourism: went to the mountains, to the taiga. And later they were carried away by the newly born subculture - diggery, research of artificially created underground objects.
 
- Then, at the end of 90-x, various myths and legends about Vladivostok dungeons were discussed in the media, - Arthur said. "My friends and I decided to figure out which of them are rumors and which ones are true. Quickly found out that the city is saturated with underground objects. We were fortunate to get acquainted with local historians and historians of the Russian Geographical Society. They explained that such facilities are of great historical value. Since that time and till now we have been working together.
 
Vladivostok digger club founded in December 1997 year. It works as a public organization without the formation of a legal entity. At the moment, the club consists of 12 people: members of the Primorsky branch of the Russian Geographical Society, environmentalists, security forces, servicemen, divers, journalists, entrepreneurs.

 
The digger club has two activities. Noncommercial is research and work to preserve military-historical objects. At the moment, members of the club collect historical information about underground objects of local air defense, civil defense, special facilities and factories. Also diggers often read free lectures in city libraries using photos and video materials on the topics: "Diggers in modern society", "Underground Vladivostok", "Military historical sites of the Russian Island", "Vladivostok fortress", "Myths and legends of underground Vladivostok" , "Underground special structures of the Civil Defense: declassified information from the State Archives".
 
The commercial direction of the club is military-historical excursions and excursions to underground objects. All routes are systematically protected by the state standard, the club has developed safety technology, each participant is issued a certified lantern and other equipment. Excursions are visited by Russian and foreign tourists, students, schoolchildren, small children with parents. For different ages, special programs have been developed.
 
- In the 90s, there were attempts by some travel agencies to engage in military-historical tourism in the forts of the fortress, but these were episodic, irregular excursions. And our club has made underground tourism systemic and fashionable, - says Artur Romanenko, - Tourists are primarily interested in the large forts of the Vladivostok Fortress. This is Fort No. 7 in the area of ​​the Zarya factory, Fort No. 3 named after Catherine the Great, located in the Dalkhimprom area. Fort No. 12 of Prince Vladimir the Saint and the Voroshilovskaya Battery memorial complex are popular on the Russian Island. Often, military installations were built in places with a good view in order to beat the enemy more effectively, and now these are interesting places for panoramic displays. Our new route, Fort No. 4 named after Emperor Alexander the Blessed, is interesting not only underground, but also with beautiful panoramas of the city, hills, surrounding forts and the Sedankinsky reservoir.
 
The complex of unique long-term defensive structures The Vladivostok fortress is 122 of the identified long-term combat objects. On the ground, the fortress was investigated at 98%. The largest objects in the history of the fortress are the infantry forts of the fortress, built in 1910 on the Sedankin range from Zarya to Gornostaya and four forts on the Russian island. But on the Soviet objects, many archives are still classified. In the years of the Great Patriotic War in Vladivostok there were almost 20 special objects, after their number was still increasing. At the moment it is proved that the only facility in Vladivostok, which was built by the NKVD construction department during the Great Patriotic War, is the former top-secret facility No.1 of the local air defense of Vladivostok. He represents a complex of underground shelters and a system of sheltered workplaces for senior officials of the Primorsky Territory, the Regional Executive Committee, the Leninsky District Executive Committee, the Vladivostok City Headquarters in Vladivostok, the headquarters of the city's fire service, and a separate shelter for the administration of the NKVD in the Primorsky Territory, built in the rocky soil of the Pochtava hummock.
 
"The main thing that we show on our excursions is how to prevent a war by building so many military facilities, including underground ones," says Arthur. - There was no war in Vladivostok due to the fact that the Vladivostok fortress was built here, and the coastal defense of the Pacific Fleet - artillery batteries and other objects. In the Great Patriotic War our city was one of the most protected naval bases of the USSR. Only from the sea side it was protected by 87 coastal batteries.
 
Most of the military-historical sites in Vladivostok now belong to the municipality. And, unfortunately, only the Novosiltsevskaya battery on the Russian Island and the museum of the Vladivostok Fortress are in proper condition. The remaining objects are abandoned and abandoned. Prior to the municipality, they were occupied by the Agency for the Management and Use of Cultural History Monuments. It began restoration work on some structures. The previous mayor, Igor Pushkarev, was trying to lease objects that could be used for storage, but there was almost no one willing to rent them.
 
"The municipality has so far limited itself to assembling a working group of specialists, including our digger club," says Artur Romanenko. "Our task is to go round all the facilities and, as a result, to provide the mayor of the city with a program with recommendations on what to do with these objects. The municipality has no money and can not take it from anywhere, and the content of such facilities is very expensive. I, as a guide, understand that if I become the owner of the object, the price of the tour will grow by 50 times, otherwise it will not be profitable. The real exit, as objects lead to a proper state, has not yet been found. But every year more and more foreigners come to Vladivostok, and it is necessary to do so that it would not be a shame to show them the pearls of military historical tourism.
 
The dream of a digger club is to make an underground museum dedicated to the local history of anti-aircraft and civil defense. Diggers collected a lot of copies of documents, exhibits, the club has guides who can talk about it.
 
- Relatively clean constructions of the Vladivostok Fortress - a small square, only small exhibitions can be organized there. And many civil defense facilities are federal property, they can not be leased while the country is in a state of fighting terrorism. And, unfortunately, museum activities in Russia are completely unprofitable. All museums subsidized - live at the expense of sponsors, the state and so on. But we really want to organize an underground museum, we hope that all the same it will turn out, - Arthur concludes.
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