Abandoned Moscow University Bunkers Shown

Moscow NTV 10 Mar 97
[From the "Segodnya" program: Video report by Nikolay Nikolayev]

[Nikolayev over video of exterior of Moscow State University followed by footage of derelict nuclear shelter] The fact that the building of the Moscow State University at Vorobyevy Gory was designed in the late forties as a unique architectural ensemble is obvious not only when, throwing back your head, you try to count the floors of this highrise building. It is not difficult either to convince yourself of this by descending to the lowest level of the labyrinth underneath this student megapolis. We frankly admit that we did not know that there was an easier route than the one we took which, unlike us, is well known to the majority of students. We had to climb down a sheer 4 meter wall of a ventilation shaft. On the way down to the multilevel labyrinth we came across a palisade of air filter pipes painted with protective paint and long since nonfunctioning, which in the event of a nuclear attack on the city were to have saved thousands of students and teaching staff. [Video shows closeup of a battery of filters]

[Vadim Mikhaylov, leader of the "Diggery" [diggers] movement, identified by caption] The nuclear shelter could protect people for a certain time after the main blast, and if the epicenter was relatively near, if the building had been destroyed, students would have been directed elsewhere, even the subway; provision was made for all this. [Nikolayev over video of underground passages]

Unfortunately, on approaching the entrance of the nuclear shelter we did not think to switch on the Geiger counter. It was only when we reviewed our raw footage that we noticed the reaction of the video tape to the strong electromagnetic field through which we had passed. The same phenomenon was noticed by the cameramen who shot the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. Subsequently, during our journey through the entrails of Moscow State University, the radiation counter repeatedly bleeped alarmingly, alerting us to danger.

[Mikhaylov] It is quite understandable why the instruments are activated here. There may be radioactive dust in the air, there are many spilled chemicals, and up above this there is the university, there is student life, students are breathing all this, they come down here.

[Nikolayev] We met first-year geology students Lera, Olya, and Ginara in one of the abandoned underground corridors. The girls, who were completely familiar with the surroundings, kindly agreed to be our guides. They confirmed that virtually all the students know their way around the bunker. The cherished dream of most students is getting down to the lowest levels of this gigantic underground labyrinth. However, the door leading there is locked from the inside.

[Brief passage omitted -- largely unintelligible exchange between correspondent and students who say that they have never been beyond this point]

[Nikolayev over video of large room with walls covered in charts and drawings illustrating a nuclear attack, broken radio equipment and other debris] The total chaos which appeared before our eyes suggested that before leaving the well-equipped shelter, people had set themselves the task of completely destroying its contents.

[Mikhaylov, reading a wall sign] Civil Defense training station for the whole city of Moscow, the whole city of Moscow. Just look what it has been turned into. Let's go on and see what a mess we will find.

[Nikolayev] Apart from quantities of broken equipment in the abandoned and partially flooded stores there are all sorts of unidentified chemicals. In some places there is a suffocating odor.

[Mikhaylov] This is a bad place. By all appearances there is acetic anhydride here.

[Nikolayev] Judging by the smell?

[Mikhaylov] I can tell very well, not just by the smell. Somebody kindly labelled those containers. Generally speaking, if all this was spilled, it would be life- threatening.

[Nikolayev to camera and over video of abandoned stores] It is impossible to tell how many and what kind of noxious substances are lying around in the labyrinth underneath Moscow State University. Ecologists are afraid to enter here illegally. And they are not likely to obtain official authorization.

And there is another reason why environmentalists are rare visitors here. On the eve of this underground expedition an international environmental organization declined to accompany us on our trip to the entrails of the Moscow State University, deeming this exercise to involve too much risk to the health of its staffers. Although it must be said that the environmentalists would have been able to find countless means of protection here. Dozens of generations of students have not yet managed to deplete the abandoned stores of gas masks.

[Mikhaylov] So here are the treasures of the motherland! Just a small thing which we want to show Yuriy Mikhaylovich [Luzhkov, Moscow mayor] so that he grasps that ultimately it is not the "diggery" who plunder such stores, it is merely the times which enable the "diggery" to find these facilities and to show them to the people. [Nikolayev] It is difficult to list all the objects left buried under the university building. At the same time, while most of the things wrecked and abandoned here are defunct, some objects such as these strange metallic cylinders remain active. [Video shows small cylinders, radiation counter reading: 0098]

[Mikhaylov off camera] Do not touch with a bare hand, better not, there is no need.

[Nikolayev] If the empty radioactive source containers scattered in the corridors and continuing to emit radiation have been emptied by a specialist with safety in mind, all well and good. However, it is probably impossible now to find out what happened to the missing radioactive substances. From time to time our Geiger counter, not designed to receive large doses, became confused and showed either zero or the maximum.

[Mikhaylov in front of a work bench] In my opinion this was some kind of station for work with isotopes. It is covered with some sort of power. It is very difficult to say now. For some reason my counter is going off the scale.

[Nikolayev] The unconcern of the students who prefer to explore the underground labyrinth to listening to lectures is understandable. It is more difficult to explain the negligence of the authorities, which have not deemed the underground facility worthy of their attention, the facility which was originally intended for a good cause -- saving lives. We can only guess at what enormous sums of money were spent in 1949 for the construction of this huge bunker and civil defense headquarters, now gone to wreck and ruin. It is also difficult to imagine how much money would be needed to ensure that, should this become necessary, people could shelter from death underneath Moscow State University, rather than finding it there. Nikolay Nikolayev, Aleksandr Danilov reporting for NTV. [video shows extensive footage of underground corridors and rooms strewn with wrecked equipment, chemicals, containers displaying radiation warning signs]