During Soviet times, a Soviet military missile base was built in a small Latvian town, Zeltiņi. From 1961, medium-range missiles (up to 3,500 km) were stored in hangars there. Military missile base Zeltiņi was perfectly disguised from unexpected guests; people say that even some houses were destroyed before building of the base, as they were too close to the secret zone.
Locals recall that not only missile installations were there, but as also several missile silos, which were blown up or sunk in the swamp when soldiers left the base.
As any abandoned place, Zeltiņi has a lot of legends. Some people say that mushrooms here can grow up to one meter in height. Others say berries are not edible as they have absorbed large doses of the propellant. Supposedly, one missile was launched from this base, but it did not reach the target.
Today, the most famous monument is 3-metres high Lenin’s head made from granite, which was removed from Lenin’s monument in Alūksne at the beginning of the 90s. This head is now facing the secret entrance of the place where radio operators were once working: a small bunker under an artificial hill.
Zeltiņi territory is approx. 19 ha large. Back in the day the base was surrounded not only by barbed wire, but also electrified one. Strategic Missile Forces Base was divided into perimeters, and 300-350 soldiers lived and served there, but only few people had the permission to enter the missiles storage site.
30th military regiment was located there, consisting of 3 divisions: one in Zeltiņi, another in Strautiņi and the third in Gulbene. First 2 divisions were in charge of the missile launchpads, and the last one had the missile silos. Every division had 4 medium-range ballistic missiles.
According to Vladimir Protsenko (major who served at this base since its foundation until its dismantling): “Initially it was planned to store 48 missiles there, but it never happened. It was decided that it is impossible to launch more than one missile from the same place, as NATO would immediately identify the location it was launched from and “answer” to it. Eventually, only 8 missiles were left. After the launch, soldiers had to escape from the place and go to the auxiliary positions, not closer than 50 km from the main base. We signed the non-disclosure documents. It does not matter that the USSR does not exist anymore, documents have no expiration date…. Following the order all personnel responsible for launching, arrived to the start positions. Nuclear weapons were located separately. Trainings were held, as a rule, at night: even blackout lights were turned off, and any movements were limited to the maximum.”
Today, the former missile base Zeltiņi is one of the most interesting tourist place in Latvia. Both Latvians and curious foreign tourists like to visit this place, willing to dive into military atmosphere.