Inside a Soviet-era Underground Nuclear Missile Base – Seriously, We’re All Going to Die

nuclear missile tour ukraine
One quick phone call, and the end of the world as we know it.

Twelve levels underground, inside a self-contained Soviet-era strategic nuclear missile force base, hanging out with a Ukrainian soldier, his job was to reside forty-five days at a time down here, inside the unified control center, awaiting orders from the Soviet Union’s top-brass. Those orders would be instructions to launch one of ten Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, with charming names like “Satan” and “Iron Maiden”, aimed directly at United States population centers and military targets, theoretically giving the Soviet Union a first-strike advantage, and reducing the USA to an even more complete collection of rag-tag post-apocalyptic roaming-murder-gangs.

This is the Strategic Missile Base “Pervo Maysk”. Located in the middle of nowhere, a long way from Kiev and Odessa, away from population centers, surrounded by sunflower fields, in the quiet Ukrainian countryside. Like an iceberg, above the surface Pervo Maysk shows only a hint of what lies beneath. There’s a few light-weight fences, some electrified rusty barbed-wire, and a small collection of buildings – disguising a real, cold-war-era, underground, Soviet Union nuclear missile base.

Beneath the surface, not so long ago, an array of locked-and-loaded nuclear missiles were ready to go. The earthquake-proof command center controlled various other nuclear missiles, dotted around the nearby vicinity. These days, the facility has been decommissioned – but almost perfectly preserved – including “the” launch button, located in a tiny submarine-like room a very long way beneath the surface. Yes, I pressed it. The control panel lit up, to simulate (I hope) a launch of ten ICBM’s. There were many buzzing sounds, and we joked about aiming the warheads at Mar-a-Lago.

What can I say? They’re a funny old thing, nuclear weapons. From the heartland of America, to the Siberian plains in Russia, millions of people work many hours each week, in jobs they mostly don’t like, to pay taxes and fund an arms-race that will likely destroy the human-race. Every nation with nuclear weapons repeats the same mantra – these weapons will only be used in self-defense, and it’s all about keeping a balance of peace. Thousands of these weapons, ready to go, in various countries across the planet, sitting on a hair-trigger. An arsenal so intense, that one day there is little doubt we will change Earth forever – peacefully.

We’re well and truly powerless to stop the madness. Maybe, we never stood a chance. Was it complacency and apathy that got us to this point? Or our voluntary support for a decades-old conga-line of democratically elected leader-demons, spending with impunity the fruits of our labour on upgrading, maintaining, and enhancing these peace-keeping weapons of unfathomably powerful destruction? Probably, we’ll never really know how it happened, when it happens.

Global thermonuclear war, as Matthew Broderick has been trying to tell us since 1982, is a lose-lose proposition. There are no “acceptable losses” or “first-strike advantages”. It doesn’t matter where you live, there’s no escaping the consequences. These weapons are real, there’s already too many, and the power of just one would cause a single-event death-toll higher than anything we have ever seen, in the history of the world.

Sadly, the system of mutually assured destruction has been entrenched into permanence.

And, we’re tick-tocking ever closer to the end-game.

But maybe, maybe, there is some good news.


missile tour ukraine nuclear
This is the SS-18 “Satan” nuclear missile. Satan can reach most points on the planet, and holds up to ten nuclear warheads – each one being around fifty-times more powerful than the bomb that instantly killed 70,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan. Satan also has up to forty “decoys” that can be launched independently to assist with it’s mission of turning American cities to glass. To be clear, this single missile contains the power of five-hundred “Hiroshma’s”, and can fly itself almost anywhere on Earth (a range of up to 16,000km’s). In Russia today, there are hundreds of Satan’s ready to go, and development continues to make future Satan’s more powerful, with a larger range.
missile silo ukraine atomic
Several kilometers of underground tunnels lead to the missile silo and control center.
ukraine missile tour chernobyl
Darmon (Bohemian Blog) getting ready to enter the lift that will take us far below the surface of the earth.
missile ukraine tour nuclear
The lift, and our official Nuclear missile guide/button-of-death-pusher.
tour ukraine nuclear missile
Doors, tunnels, lifts. This section is suspended and separated from the surrounding Earth, it’s designed to withstand a direct nuclear hit and carry on like it aint no thing.
nuclear hatch ukraine silo
A steady diet of 1980’s Russians-as-bad-guys action movies, has resulted in my mind always reading anything written with the Cyrillic alphabet with cautious suspicion. Of course, this is one of the few cases where my suspicions are warranted.
tour missile silo ukraine atomic
Looking into the twelve level abyss of a nuclear missile silo.
nuclear tunnels bunker tour kiev
Tunnels inside the nuclear missile facility.
antifreeze ukraine tour atomic
A large tank of anti-freeze, skull-and-crossbones really not necessary when you’re inside one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
nuclear silo hatch kiev ukraine
Careful, don’t slip and fall down the twelve-level underground nuclear missile silo.

Of some relevance – since visiting this base I’ve spent six-days straight with one of the worlds pre-eminent experts in all things nuclear. I don’t want to say too much, and due to his level of security clearance, we’re no longer allowed to have further contact. In the words of his government, I’m a “foreign national”, and can’t be trusted. However, I really learned a lot about radiation. Update: it’s generally pretty bad. God damn it, I’d love to give a funny anecdote about global thermonuclear war right about now, before this starts to get a bit morbid.

“The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.” – Einstein


missile silo tour
It’s a museum now.
iron maiden nuclear missile
Iron Maiden, above ground on display at the strategic missile force base, “Pervo Maysk”

click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article


Well, there really is some good news – a silver lining to the certainty of this madness.

The thing is, one way or another, you’re going to die. We’re all going to die. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, or even next year. But, we’ll all die. Hopefully, it will be quick, and without suffering. Maybe it will be a Nuclear World War III, maybe something else. By the time you read this, I may well be dead. Morbid, but true. Shit does happen sometimes.

So, start making the most of your time.

Live your life, like you’re gonna die.

Because, you’re gonna.

Lots of Love,


PS, the FINAL tour of Ukraine lead by myself, Phillipa, and Darmon of the Boheman Blog, will be available to book very shortly. January, 2018, in the middle of Winter, and we’re finalising dates now – but will promise an experience like no other. If you’re interested, click here and ask to be put on the information list – numbers will be purposefully limited.

PPS, I just arrived in Iran today, and I’ll be here for a few months. I update Instagram almost daily.

* with thanks to William Shatner.

BTW, I would love to send you the next dispatch, posted from some-where random around this planet (and you'll soon find out why YOMADIC email followers are my favourite followers):

11 thoughts on “Inside a Soviet-era Underground Nuclear Missile Base – Seriously, We’re All Going to Die

  1. I see you are back to Fuji (sorry I’m an exif data peeker) How did you feel with the Ricoh GR? I’m considering one to take everywhere and to reserve my X-Pro1 for intentional stree photo walks.

    1. Nice detective work, Hector. Seems Lightroom is not stripping all the EXIF data :)

      I could write a novel about Ricoh vs Fuji, but I would say this: I prefer Fuji overall, but I prefer the compactness of the GR. Both are great!

  2. This reportage is timely and an engaging read given current political climate worldwide.
    Thanks again for your efforts overseas Nate.
    Taking keyboard fanatics places, with an unaltered willingness to educate.
    Satan… Not so nice.
    Deserves to be in every major print media mate. Keep it up.
    Han (gets on with trout fishing and smiling while alive ????). Hey, as if I’m missing out on catching a Sea Runner bro!

    1. I’ll reference you Ken from accounts. . . ????????! KEN IS A FREAKING LEGEND!
      Nathan is OK too. At least, I hope he is after reading this. . .

  3. Good write up Nate,
    To think the good old USA at the same time had more modern and more accurate ICBM’s and almost three times as many, so many in fact that USAF planners main problems had been they had more nukes than targets. So they had to plan for secondary hits on Soviet targets, just to be sure. It could have surely turned the USSR into glass and probably save a couple to toss down on you Nate.

  4. Thank God I’m and old man now, otherwise I’d be on a plane heading to Iran to join you.
    I’m writing a film now that has an action scene in Tehran so ended up on your site.

    Much fun,


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