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Mysterious St. Petersburg. Kupchino’s radio field

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This is the so-called radio field. Or, as residents of St. Petersburg call it, Kupchino’s antennae field. In essence, its an absolutely unique and and absolutely wild forrest within the city, tucked in-between quarries of a brick factory, a constructed park - which we shall touch upon later - and Sofiyskaya street. The radio field was constructed in 1943 - right in the middle of the war, and up until 1991 it had been jamming western radio stations to the south of St. Petersburg. But the antennae have been dismantled since 2010, while the radio center is almost gone.

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Denis Shalyapin, historian: «By the way, take a look - this is what remains of the radio center and one of the antennae. One of the older ones. There used to be 22 of those here. Now they are just memories - they have been dismantled. But, if you think about it, they were the reason why all these bunkers, trenches and other defensive facilities have remained here. It was a protected area and all these were part of it».

We’re talking about these bunkers and trenches lost in the forrest. Imagine - firing positions and field fortifications right within the city’s limits, untouched by time. They were saved by the protected status of the radio center, and now - since the station is gone - they are being protected by several enthusiasts from Kupchino, who want to turn this land into a state-protected historic park. They’ve been unearthing these fortifications with their own hands for several years.

Denis Shalyapin, historian: «Workers of the radio center covered the trenches with soil - so that local youths don’t find them. You can see how high it was covered - it was soil all over, and we removed it. And this is a well which was unearthed just about at the same time. The water in it was not for drinking, but for technical means - it was meant to cool down «Maxim» heavy machine gun».

This trench, just like others at this land, was dug by young girls from a female construction battalion. But all this could have easily not existed at all - if the 1935 General Plan was realized.

Mikhail Krainov, regional historian: «The new Soviet Leningrad was meant to stretch out into the south. All this land, including Sofiyskaya street - which was supposed to be Dzerzhinskiy prospekt, originating at Gorokhovaya and connecting this part directly with the center. All this was meant to be extended here and there were supposed to be residential buildings and parks here. All this was meant to be a residential area»

But the radio field, which emerged here in 1943, literally froze this place for 75 years, almost turning it into an exclusion zone.

Pavel Nikiforov, reporter: «Its very difficult to tell the story of Kupchino’s radio filed, when this field has been destroyed. So in order to illustrate how it looked, we have come to Olgino. We are now in a restricted area - according to this sign - but beyond this barbed wire is radio center number 1. Kupchino hosted radio center number 3, here was number one - and it still does what it used to do back in the day. Jams radio waves»

Olgino’s radio field, unlike the one in Kupchino, is still active. It even operates on German equipment seized in the war, which was brought here right after the victory.

We are aboard «Krasin» ice-breaker. Walking down the ship’s deck with Nikolay Sashenin - head of radio cabin. He operates the radio equipment every day and knows everything about radio fields - the main mission of which was to jam transmissions of Western radio stations.

Nikolay Sashenin, head of radio cabin and «Krasin» ice-breaker: «Where were all these radio stations at? In Europe. So all the capacity had to be directed there. This is a directed antenna. It was configured in such a way that its entire lobe was directed towards Europe»

So now we know the functions and configurations of radio fields, but what about all this land - whom it belongs to and what future it has?

Alexander Teterdinko, deputy at St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council: «This land is still a federal property, but before the year’s end it will be handed over to the city - and then the administration will take care of it».

But for now, the under-construction park commemorating hero firemen has reached the boundaries of the antennae field. The border almost looks like it was drawn with a pencil. To the left - two meters of crushed brick inside the park, to the right - abandoned radio field. The water flows from top to bottom, flooding the trenches. But no-one pays attention to this. Every chance that Kupchino’s antennae field can turn into a swamp by the years end - which would make turning it into a park extremely hard.

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