The Franz-Josef-Land archipelago is the northernmost landmass and is part of Motherland Russia. Considered as the western gateway into the Northeast Passage as well as to the North Pole, it is strategically important to the government in Moscow. With the renewed interest in the Arctic and its resources by Russia, authorities had made the establishment of a military base on one of the archipelago’s islands the highest priority. Now, after 3 years of construction, the complex at Nagurskoye Base on Aleksandra Island has opened its doors and was visited by president Putin and a high profile delegation.

The latest military complex on Aleksandra Land is the northernmost and largest human construction in the Arctic. It will serve as a main base for the entire region. Picture: Russian Ministry of Defense
The latest military complex on Aleksandra Land is the northernmost and largest human construction in the Arctic. It will serve as a main base for the entire region. Picture: Russian Ministry of Defense

The 14,000 square meters military complex at the Nagurskoye base on Aleksandra Land, the northernmost of the islands of Franz Josef Land is completed and ready for use. Photos of the new military base, said to be the largest building in the entire circumpolar high Arctic, is published by the Defense Ministry.  Painted like Russia’s tricolor flag, the complex will provide living and working conditions for up to 150 soldiers. Close by is the upgraded military airport, part of Moscow’s current large-scale modernization of military infrastructure in the Arctic.   When construction work at the base started in 2014, Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said one of the prioritized areas for the military is development of military infrastructure in the Arctic. “A constant military presence in the Arctic and a possibility to protect the state’s interest by military means are regarded as an integral part of the general policy to guarantee national security,” Shoygu said as previously reported by the Barents Observer. Last month, Shoygu proudly showed President Vladimir Putin around at the new military complex. Visiting the base, Putin brought with him the highest profiled delegation ever visiting Franz Josef Land. In addition to Defense Minister Shoygu, the delegation consisted of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoi, former Minister of Defense and now the president’s special envoy for transportation of the environment Sergei Ivanov.

The base was constructed according to the latest state of the art and can house up to a 150 soldiers. It also has an airport and is supposed to operate autonomously if need arises. Picture: Russian Ministry of Defense
The base was constructed according to the latest state of the art and can house up to a 150 soldiers. It also has an airport and is supposed to operate autonomously if need arises. Picture: Russian Ministry of Defense

The four to five store trefoil complex has its own heat power plant, fuel and lubricant depots, storage for food and clothing, sewage facilities and garages for maintenance of equipment. All designed to operate autonomously in extreme Arctic climate. Located at 80 degrees north, the Nagurskoye military complex is the largest human made structure so far north. The building is 2,000 square metres bigger than the University Centre in Longyearbyen on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, inaugurated in 2006. Longyearbyen is located at 78 degrees north. Just near to the main complex, the world’s northernmost Orthodox log church is erected.

The military base on Aleksandra Island is only one complex in Russia’s plans to modernize Arctic forces. On Wrangel Island, a similar complex is currently under construction. Picture: Russian Ministry of Defense
The military base on Aleksandra Island is only one complex in Russia’s plans to modernize Arctic forces. On Wrangel Island, a similar complex is currently under construction. Picture: Russian Ministry of Defense

Source: Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer