Czechs turn Soviet nuclear warhead depot into Iron Curtain museum

Fri May 17, 2013 11:54am EDT
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By Jan Lopatka

MISOV, Czech Republic (Reuters) - A former secret Soviet nuclear warhead shelter in the Czech Republic is being turned into a museum inviting visitors to learn about the Cold War atomic race.

The mighty underground cement bunker was ordered by the Soviet leadership under Nikita Khrushchev, and built in the mid to late 1960s in a forest near the village of Misov southwest of Prague, 60 km (37.5 miles) from the west German border.

It was one of three such places in the former Czechoslovakia, and a dozen across Soviet Warsaw Pact allies, but the only one believed still to be intact.

"This was the most secret place in Czechoslovakia. No Czechs had access there," said Vaclav Vitovec, head of the Iron Curtain Foundation that is preparing to open the site in August.

Inside the bunker, buried under a forest and protected by machine-gun posts, there are thick concrete walls, two pairs of heavy iron gates and four chambers for storing up to 80 nuclear warheads that could be mounted on missiles. A twin bunker sits some 100 meters away.

A succession of smaller rooms hosts the remains of equipment, from loading cranes to helium and vacuum pumps used to maintain the warheads, a diesel engine, gas masks, air filters and various tools.

All of this will be on display along with pictures and texts on the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Historians say the site was so secret that it is not even known whether nuclear warheads were actually ever placed there.   Continued...

A general view of the interior of the former Soviet Army nuclear weapons depot near the village of Misov, 90 km (56 miles) southwest from Prague, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Petr Josek