The Bechevinka Submarine Base, located near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the largest city in the Kamchatka Peninsula and a key base for the Russian Pacific Fleet, supplied submarines with missiles, torpedoes and fuel. Bechevinka was founded in the 1960s as a military village, a submarine base. In August 1971, the 182nd submarine brigade, consisting of 12 submarines, was transferred to Bechevinka.
Eight three-five-story houses, a boiler room, a post office, a shop, a school and a kindergarten were built in the village. Once a week a ship came from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky; there was no ground communication with other settlements. In 1996, the submarines were relocated to Zavoyko, the garrison was disbanded, and the population was removed.
Following the usual Soviet procedure, while the new military base was being developed and submarines were being deployed, a town was built nearby for workers as well as military staff and their families. Initially, the builders built several panel houses for themselves to live in while they worked, but they were eventually dismantled. Submarine crews had the use of a temporary floating base.
Eventually, the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Submarine Base consisted of eight residential buildings, ranging from three to five floors high. All houses in the city were assigned numbers according to the order of their construction. There was also a kindergarten, a hostel, a school, a grocery store, and a post office. There was even an entertainment club with space for an orchestra, but the building suffered a fire in 1987 and was razed to the ground.
Alongside the residential buildings, the necessary military facilities were built. These included a headquarters building, barracks, a commandant’s office, storage facilities, a boiler room, a diesel substation, and a fuel warehouse. The hills around Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Submarine Base acted as an additional line of defense. To make them even more effective, fortified emplacements were hidden within the hills.
Once a week, a supplies ship sailed from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the submarine base. At night, the ship was unloaded, and the next morning, the grocery store would be able to provide local residents with food and essential items. The ship also brought mail to be delivered. This ship was the only link to the outside world since there was no ground transport or communication links between Bechevinka and other cities. If there was an emergency, then a helicopter would fly in, which also brought some authorities to the garrison.
However, the base at Kamchatka was not active for long. In 1996, five years after the collapse of the USSR, cost-saving measures resulted in all the submarines deployed there being reassigned to other ports. The garrison was disbanded. The local population left the city, disconnecting the electricity and water supply before they left. The guns hidden in the hills, which had never been used, were left to rust. Two years later, the buildings and structures were written off from the accounts of the Ministry of Defense by a decree.
Bechevinka was thought up by one of our former Commander-in-Chiefs, Admiral Gorshkov, when he needed to write his thesis at the military academy. So he came up with the possibility of transforming this modest military outpost into a full-fledged diesel-torpedo-submarine base with all the respective infrastructure. And having become a Commander-in-Chief, he began to consistently bring his crazy idea to life, and there was no one around to say: ‘hold on a minute…’. Finval Bay (another name for the bay) was fenced off from the ocean by a wide sand bank, and therefore a narrow canal was dug in it, which had to be excavated once a year, because it kept being simply washed away by the waves. Several times the submarines got stuck into the edges of the canal, and once – Sasha, the duty officer, did too. To lock the whole of the 182nd fleet inside the bay, all it would have taken was one junior saboteur with a few sticks of dynamite, and that would have been enough. There was no road to the garrison – only five hours by sea. Or by helicopter.