15 kilometers of a Dam between St. Petersburg and Kotlin. Today, driving at 100 km/h down the highway, its hard to imagine that in the early 1980s you would only get here on a ferry – and with a special pass. It took weeks to get media accreditations. But what is today’s Kroschtadt like?
Windy, red-bricks and stone. The island where everyone knows each other. In 40 years of living here, this is what Kroschtadt has become for Vladimir Shatrov, retired submariner.
Vladimir Shatrov, director of Kroschtadt’s Naval Museum: “Everything here used to be connected to the Navy. On Saturdays and Sundays it almost felt like snowing in the town – when sailors wearing white garments took to the streets. We don’t see this anymore”.
Talking about Kroschtadt, he lists the achievements of the past – construction of unique forts, the first radio station, the first water pipe in Russia, fragments of which can still be seen in the town’s museums, as well as the first underwater filming – also made here.
But its time for a reload. These are the shots which were seen everywhere in the world – on the day of the Naval Parade, which received immediate reaction from NATO countries. “Putin’s Imperial ambitions out in the seas”, “Why is the Russian Navy more capable than it looks” – headlines from July’s western tabloids. And while the military parade at Red Square is about remembrance and demonstration of military might, the parade in Kroschtadt is illustrating Russia’s biggest might at this point in time – the Navy and its machines. A postcard-like look of the small town of only 19.5 kilometers in size, the Gulf of Finland, forts – the ideal decorations for this might. Remember the Russian Navy like that!
Two dozen ships passed through Kroschtadt Naval Factory prior to the parade. Complex check-ups and renovations. So what everyone saw on TV is not just pretty pictures – all those machines are ready to set sail at any moment.
Andrey Yuryev, ship builder: “We have a decent workload, so now we are hiring additional specialists. With the arrival of ships like Admiral Vladimirskiy – we are hiring. So we are currently loaded with work up until the end of 2019”.
120 ships will pass these docks in two years. Most of them belong to the Defense Ministry. Works here include preparations for the next parade. The big festival coming to town means a lot of work for factories and specialists. Something which gives a lot of bustle to the generally quiet life in these streets.
Maxim Oblender, reporter: “Streets in Kroschtadt are narrow. Houses are like sailors – standing in line with the equal gap between one another. And you won’t find signs in foreign languages on these buildings. Groceries would be “produkty”, written in Russian. You can still have a lunch at culinary stores, which are old-school. A newspaper kiosk at the entrance, concrete floor. High tables and potato pancakes for 23 rubles”.
And such small details define the whole of Kroschtadt. From a small pie at a culinary store to a huge ships docked in at the port area. The details which need to be rebooted. Like the Naval Cathedral – which was recently renovated and now sees hundreds of visits every day. Like Fort Konstantin, which has become a tourist attraction after renovation. Like the currently renovated Letniy Garden, which will soon open its doors to visitors.
A reload of even such a small town may take decades. The fate of Admiralty is unclear – its still waiting for a renovation. The Italian Palace – which was painted only from one side, for whatever reason. Or Petrovskiy docks – where the last ship was renovated back in 2006, but know it is being overseen by only one man. Employee of Kroschtadt’s Historic Museum.
Maxim Oblender, reporter: “Tourists are not allowed on this side of the dock. We are the first TV crew to make it inside the floating gate which separates Petrovskiy docks from the big water”.
This location would’ve been ideal for a set of a horror movie. Standing here is scary – especially thinking how tons of water can crumble this rusty behemoth. But there is hope – a unique museum of sunken ships, which would have no equal in the world, may appear on this spot. A huge dome and findings from the bottom of the Baltic sea, under thick water – the blueprint of this vivid project can already be seen online. Right now, financing is the problem. But since the project is overseen by the Russian Geographic Society, headed by president Putin and defense minister Sergey Shoigu – it would most likely arrive.
But for now tourists are offered a typified tour. Cathedral, ships at the embankment, excursion in the Gulf, walks around the Forts. Essentially, a tour of buildings which had decayed during the years of neglect. Because that is the main value of Kroschtad’s past and future. Its unrivaled charm.