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Lara’s Travels: Zapadnaya Litsa

Zapadnaya Litsa: All about that base, 'bout that base...

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 will certainly not be her first visit to the Russian Federation. In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, our heroine travelled to an ancient settlement in Siberia (though actually filmed in Iceland) in search of one half of the mystic Triangle of Light.

And fans of the Core Design games may remember 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 as seen in Tomb Raider Chronicles

Zapadnaya Litsa as seen in Tomb Raider Chronicles (Image credit: Katie’s Tomb Raider Screenshots)

Zapadnaya Litsa (Западная Лица), also once known as Severomorsk-7, is one of Russia’s key naval and submarine bases and is located on the Litsa fjord on the Kola Peninsula in Murmansk Oblast, a region in northwestern 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, including 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 certainly 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-agression 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 but until then, 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 and 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 (formerly Zaozerny village) was established in 1958 to house the officers stationed at Zapadnaya Litsa as well as their families and other civilians and is completely off-limits to tourists…and tomb raiders. And perhaps it’s for the best as 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. [Buy this on Amazon/Amazon UK].

 Sources and Further Reading:


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About Kelly M (396 Articles)
A Gibraltarian-born blogger, gamer, and archaeology enthusiast with a passion for languages and wildlife conservation. Tweets under the username @TombRaiderArch and runs the official fansite, The Archaeology of Tomb Raider.

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