Starting in the Brezhnev period, Russia has been pursuing construction of a massive underground facility at Yamantau Mountain and the city of Mezhgorye (formerly the settlements of Beloretsk-15 and Beloretsk-16). The complex, reportedly being built by tens of thousands of workers, is said to cover an area of up to 400 square miles, the size of the Washington area inside the Beltway.
The exact location of this large facility is uncertain, and given its reported size it may span as much as an entire degree of latitude and longitude. It is apparently located near the the Zlatoust-36/Yuryuzan nuclear weapons production plant and the Yuryuzan national-level nuclear weapons storage facility. The Yaman-Tau Gory [mountains] range is centered at 52°25'N 56°45'E, while the peak of Yamantau Gora [mountain] is at 54°15'19"N 58°06'11"E. The town of Beloretsk is located at 53°58'N 58°24'E, though NIMA does not include a listing for Mezhgorye. This facility may be synonymous with "Alkino-2" since the town of Al'kino is nearby at 55°05'N 58°04'E.
On April 16, 1996, the New York Times reported on a mysterious military base being constructed in Russia: "In a secret project reminiscent of the chilliest days of the Cold War, Russia is building a mammoth underground military complex in the Ural Mountains, Western officials and Russian witnesses say. Hidden inside Yamantau mountain in the Beloretsk area of the southern Urals, the project involved the creation of a huge complex, served by a railroad, a highway, and thousands of workers."
The New York Times quoted Russian officials describing the underground compound variously as a mining site, a repository for Russian treasures, a food storage area, and a bunker for Russia's leaders in case of nuclear war. "The (Russian) Defense Ministry declined to say whether Parliament has been informed about the details of the project, like its purpose and cost, saying only that it receives necessary military information," according to the New York Times.
Satellite photographs of Yamantau Mountain show continued digging at the "deep undergound complex" and new construction at each of the site's above-ground support areas. Judging from satellite photos and other intelligence, US officials are fairly confident that the Russians are building an underground command bunker and communications installation. But "... the Russians are not very interested in having us go in there," a senior American official said in Washington. "It is being built on a huge scale and involves a major investment of resources. The investments are being made at a time when the Russians are complaining they do not have the resources to do things pertaining to arms control."
Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that "The huge underground complex being built there has been the object of U.S. interest since 1992. 'We don't know exactly what it is,' says Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's international security mogul. The facility is not operational, and the Russians have offered 'nonspecific reassurances' that it poses no threat to the U.S." Russia's 1997 federal budget lists the project as a closed territory containing installations of the Ministry of Defense.
Leonid Akimovich Tsirkunov, commandant of Beloretsk-15 and Beloretsk-16, stated in 1991 and 1992 that the purpose of the construction there was to build a mining and ore-processing complex, but later claimed that it was an underground warehouse for food and clothing. And then Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces General Igor Sergeyev denied that the facility was associated with nuclear forces. M.Z. Shakiorov, a former communist official in the region, alleged in 1992 that the Yamantau Mountain facility was to become a shelter for the Russian national leadership in case of nuclear war. Sources of the Segodnya newspaper in 1996 claimed that the Yamantau Mountain project was associated with the so-called `Dead Hand' nuclear retaliatory command and control system for strategic missiles.
According to one recent account ["We Keep Building Nukes For All the Wrong Reasons", By Bruce G. Blair, The Washington Post Sunday, May 25, 2003; Page B01] "... the Yamantau and Kosvinsky mountains in the central and southern Urals ... were huge construction projects begun in the late 1970s, when U.S. nuclear firepower took special aim at the Communist Party's leadership complex. Fearing a decapitating strike, the Soviets sent tens of thousands of workers to these remote sites, where U.S. spy satellites spotted them still toiling away in the late 1990s. Yamantau is expected to be operating soon. According to diagrams and notes given to me in the late 1990s by SAC senior officers, the Yamantau command center is inside a rock quartz mountain, about 3,000 feet straight down from the summit. It is a wartime relocation facility for the top Russian political leadership. It is more a shelter than a command post, because the facility's communications links are relatively fragile. As it turned out, the quartz interferes with radio signals broadcast from inside the mountain. Therefore the main communications links are either cable or radio transmitters that broadcast from outside the center."
Beloretsk is a center of Beloretsk region of Bashkortostan. It is situated on the cross of Belaya River and Magnitogorsk-Beloretsk-Karloman rail-road. It is 264 km. far from Ufa and 105 km. far from Magnitogorsk. The population was 73600 of people in 1995 ( 19900 in 1926, 59300 in 1959, 72400 in 1989). One of the oldest minig and metalurgical centers of South Ural appeared because of construction of the metallurgical works. Before The First World War narrow-gauge Zaprudovka-Beloretsk line was built. In 1923 the village Beloretskiy Zavod grew into town, in 1926 it was connected with Tukan and in 1927 with Inzer by narrow-gauge line. Wood and ore was transported from these towns to the plant. Including the plant to the field of activity of Uralo-Kuzneckiy group of enterprise was the reason of its reconstruction and its transfering to a coking coal. Town development became quicker after constructing the rail-road to Ufa (1997). The main city industry is the metallurgical works. Other plants in Beloretsk produce tools for building, springs for tractors, nails, etc. There are also woodworking industry, meat and dairy factories, plants producing bricks and ferro-concret items.
The Republic of Bashkortostan is located in the Southern part of the Urals along the line of Europe and Asia. Its area is 143,600 sq. m. As of January 1, 1995 the population of Bashkortostan was 4.097 million people. The capital is Ufa is with a population of 1.1 million residents. The republic has 54 administrative areas ("rayons") and 21 cities. Other large cities include Sterlitamak (256,000 inhabitants), Salavat (155,000), Nefetekamsk (123,000), Oktyabrsky (108,000). Representatives of 70 nations and ethnicities live in the Republic of Bashkortostan, including Russians (39.3 percent), Tatars (28.4 percent) and Bashkirs (21.9 percent). The urban population constitutes 65 percent of the total.
Acknowledgements: Global Security