8 Cities in Russia you can't visit

2018-07-11 20:02 - Ethan Van Diemen
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(Photo: iStock)

With the Fifa World Cup 2018 in Russia coming to a conclusion, many are reconsidering their views and opinions on the largest country in the world.

With many viewing the nation as being not much more than a vodka-soaked, unfriendly frozen hellscape (and Moscow) - the World Cup has well and truly opened the doors of touristic possibility to this storied country.

From ornate cathedrals to massive museums and art galleries, ballets at the Bolshoi to opera in the park, Russia has truly opened itself to the world. While many of [formerly] lesser-known cities have seen a noticeable boost to domestic and international tourism, one has to wonder just how much the Russian really have opened up to the world.

St Petersburg, Moscow and Sochi are cities the relatively well-informed traveller has likely heard of before but the World Cup has shown that Russia has much to offer in its far-flung and lesser known towns and cities.

SEE: Cool things to do in Russian cities you didn't know existed

Nizhny Novgorod and Samara stand out amongst the group of host cities for a number of reasons - chief among them being the fact that the cities were closed-cities that prohibited access to foreigners and made it nearly impossible to explore and enter for even citizens during the Soviet era.

Well, it seems that the coming down of the Berlin Wall and fall of the Soviet Union has not changed everything. In Russia, according to the Telegraph, there are roughly 60 towns, settlements and cities that are closed off to this day.

Officially known as “closed administrative-territorial formations” or a "closed urban locality", without special permission you are not going to see these places any time soon.

SEE: Russian fans and businesses smiling as World Cup delight reaches halftime

Have a look at these places you’ll likely never see:

Vilyuchinsk

Long used as a base for the construction of Russia's nuclear submarines, this closed city was founded in 1968 as Sovetsky. The town’s name changed in 1994 and was named after the nearby volcano, Vilyuchik. 

Travellers probably aren’t missing out on too much as the economy, dominated by the construction of the nuclear subs, is largely reliant on the fisheries and their related processing industries. 

The naval base that is housed in this location has been modernised with newly constructed residential buildings, a nursery school, a sports centre and even a water park. 

Even if you were to be allowed in - fish or nuclear submarines - those would be your choices if you were to explore this city.

 (Photo: iStock)

Dikson

It doesn’t get much more northern and isolated in Russia than in the port settlement of Dikson.

Named after Swedish Arctic pioneer Baron Oscar Dickson, the name was in later years ‘Russified’ with the ‘c’ in the name being dropped. 

This island is also the site of the first Russia radio station to be set up in the Arctic. Today it is an isolated part of the world you can’t go to nor would you likely want to unless complete, Arctic isolation is what you’re looking for.

Zheleznogorsk (formerly known as Krasnoyarsk-26)

This is another town that you may actually not want to go to anyway.

A centre for the production of weapons-grade plutonium, this town and the Russian defence complex and inextricably intertwined. This formerly secret research town only started showing up on maps after 1992.

Zheleznogorsk has some of the coolest names despite its obscurity being known at different times as either ‘Atom Town’, ‘the Nine’, ‘Soctown’ and ‘Iron City’.

Make sure you don’t check it out.

 (Photo: iStock)

Fokino

Home to the Russian Pacific Fleet, the town was closed around the base and has not been open to Joe Average since.

Fokino is the location of the main naval base at the Russian Far East.

Foreigners are required to possess a special permit should they seek to explore and visit the town.

WATCH: The Soviet 'closed city' of Nizhny Novgorod gears up for #WorldCup quarter finals

Tsiolkovsky

110 kilometres from the Chinese border, the town of Tsiolkovsky is a location famed for its contribution to Russian and Soviet aeronautics.

Founded in 1961, the town was established to serve the nearby intercontinental ballistic missile base of the Soviet Armed Forces. Today the settlement has 33 blocks of residential homes, a high school, two kindergartens and a hospital.

Contemporarily, the town serves the nearby spaceport, Vostochny Cosmodrome.  

Severomorsk

With a name that translates into ‘North Sea’, it is no secret where this Russian settlement is located.

Home to the Russian Northern Fleet, this settlement is closed off to anyone but government officials and locals since 1996.

With a bakery, sausage factory, soft-drink bottling factory and a swimming pool, it also sounds a lot less gloomy than some of the other closed cities on this list.  

Snezhinsk (formerly known as Chelyabinsk-70)

Founded in 1957, Snezhinsk was known as one of Russia’s main centres for nuclear research. 

During the Soviet era, it was not on any maps and commercial flights were forbidden over the location. 

The town is built around a scientific research institute known as the “All-Russian Scientific Research Centre of Technical Physics”.

You’d probably see some really cool stuff if you were to ever check this place out. But you won’t.  

 (Photo: iStock)

Sarov

Sarov, like Snezhinsk, was one of the main centres for nuclear research with the Tsar Bomba (the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created) being found in their atomic bomb museum. 

Today the town is home to the Russian Federation Nuclear Centre. Sarov is slightly less inhospitable and unwelcoming to visitors than other cities on this list with access to the location happening by train or vehicle. 

The town’s perimeter is surrounded by fencing and patrolled by the military. Upon arrival to the Sarov, foreigners and out-of-town Russians are required to surrender their passports, phones and cameras while they explore the town. 

Below is a map of all the closed cities and towns:

  • Keen on exploring out some of the cities and towns that Putin wouldn't mind you checking out? Well pack your bags, get your passport and credit card ready. We've done the rest with our Quick Guide: Plan your trip to Mother Russia