Tuesday 18 December 2018

Owl Mountain / Gora Filina, Republic of Karelia, Russia (Finnish Military Complex 1943 / 1944)

The garrison town of Lahdenpojha, which is located near to a natural harbour in the northern part of Lake Ladoga, was established in the 1930s as a base for the Viipuri Regiment of the Finnish Army. In addition to infantry barracks there was a sniper school and a tank training facility. The town is now located in the Republic of Karelia, Russia.

Russian T-62 at Gora Filina

In 1943, as the likelihood of a full scale Soviet offensive increased a huge underground command and control bunker was built into the Gora Filina cliff. It was originally occupied by the Finnish Laatokka Coastal Brigade (Laatokan Rannikkoprikaati). The bunker was built out of a natural grotto  and has an inner floor area of 750 square metres and a ceiling height of four metres. All necessary facilities were incorporated into the construction - electricity, water supply, communications, heating, ventilation and vehicular access.

The bunker complex is now a popular tourist attraction and the two main areas have been converted into exhibition halls. The first is concerned with the military history of the Winter War and what Russians call 'The Great Patriotic War'. The collection of artefacts, photographs and papers offer some fascinating insights into the impact of these wars on this corner of relatively remote Karelia. I was surprised to find that Italian MAS motor torpedo boats (MTBs) were transported to Lahdenpohja Bay in 1942 for use on Lake Ladoga as part of the German Nordlicht operation against the besieged city of Leningrad.

The second hall is devoted to the geology of the area. Outside there is a path and steps which lead up to the top of the mountain. It's perhaps a ten minute walk and offers a spectacular view of the old barrack blocks, the town and Lake Ladoga beyond. It was here that the local defences were centred - anti-aircraft guns and smaller machine guns to protect the perimeter.

The bunker was most heavily used from 5 March 1944 until 19 September 1944 when the Finns signed an armistice agreement and withdrew from the area - taking most of their important documents with them. The complex was decommissioned in the 1990s and founded as a museum heritage site in 2015. The declared 'mission' of the museum is to remind visitors of the importance of maintaining peace between Finland and Russia.

Interior of First Underground Hall
Barracks as seen from the top of Owl Mountain
There are some interesting walking routes around the old military garrison - and we weren't put off by a sign that said, in English, "To keep indoors for a protection. Dangerously for life!" sic.  The barracks were occupied in Soviet times but are now in a state of disrepair - apart from one where there is evidence of an attempt to turn it into a resort or hotel. There is a communication tunnel from Owl Mountain to the administration building nearby but unfortunately we failed to get access.

Administration Building - Lahdenpohja Garrison
Mess Hall - Lahedenpohja Garrison
 Nowadays the decaying buildings and surrounding spaces are frequently used by film makers. I'm not familiar with the movies in question but the more popular ones are apparently 'Mine', 'Golden Rush', Survive at all Costs', 'Pirahyna Trace' and the Finnish 'Headache'.

Click here to see my Owl Mountain Flickr collection.