Lara Croft will soon be heading off to Siberia for her next adventure but long-time fans of the Tomb Raider series will know that this is not her first visit to the Russian Federation. In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, our heroine travelled to an ancient settlement in Siberia in search of one half of the mystical Triangle of Light.
Fans of the Core Design games may also recall that Ms Croft once broke into a high-security naval base at Zapadnaya Litsa during her search for the Biblical “Spear of Destiny”, an event recounted in the 2000 game Tomb Raider Chronicles.
Zapadnaya Litsa (Западная Лица), also once known as Severomorsk-7, is one of Russia’s key naval and submarine bases. The base is located on the Litsa fjord in Murmansk Oblast, a region in north-western Russia that borders Finland and Norway and lies almost entirely within the Arctic Circle. Despite its northerly position, Zapanaya Litsa is an ice-free port and home to four naval facilities. One of these is Bolshaya Lopatka, one of Russia’s largest nuclear submarine bases and the home base of the ill-fated Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000.
The base has little of archaeological interest but would be of interest to military and Cold War historians. For a brief period, the area came under Nazi control as a result of the non-aggression pact signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in August 1939. This pact was broken in June 1941 when Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union. Prior to that, Zapadnaya Litsa – or “Basis Nord“, to use its German name – allegedly served as a base for supplying U-boats and raiding ships operating in the Barents Sea. Its role in the invasion of Norway remains unclear but it’s thought that Basis Nord was abandoned following the occupation of the Norwegian port city of Narvik in June 1940.
Zapadnaya Litsa’s importance as a naval base reached its peak during the Cold War but is still very much in use today. The closed town of Zaozyorsk was established in 1958 to house the officers stationed there, their families, and a number of civilians. The base is completely off-limits to tourists… and tomb raiders. And perhaps it’s for the best. It’s thought the area is contaminated with radioactive waste. Not really the ideal place for a vacation.
If you’d like to learn more about Zapadnaya Litsa and Russia’s nuclear forces, check out the 2004 book Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, edited by Pavel Podvig.
Sources and Further Reading:
- Basis Nord (Wikipedia)
- New Deal to Clean Up Nuclear Waste (Asia Times Online)
- Tomb Raider Chronicles: In-Game FMV Movies & Cut Scenes (TombRaiders.Net)
- Zaozyorsk (Murmansk Region – 2004 Presentation Disc)
- Zaozyorsk (Wikipedia)
- Zapadnaya Litsa (Naval Base) (Wikipedia)