Search Operation on Kola Peninsula: the RGS and the Northern Fleet to Uncover Wartime Secrets

Вид на Мотовской залив. Фото: Виолетта Антонова, участница фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"

On August 3, a joint search expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Northern Fleet to the Kola Peninsula was launched. For ten days, experts will be examining the places of military operations of the Great Patriotic War, war memorials, and military graves in the area of Cape Pikshuev on the southern coast of the Motovsky Gulf of the Barents Sea.

The Kola Peninsula, rich in reserves of industrial metal nickel, with a year-round Murmansk port was of strategic importance in the implementation of the German plan of "lightning war". But the blitzkrieg in the northern direction was thwarted by the naval forces that landed behind enemy lines on the southern shore of the Motovsky Gulf in 1941 and 1942. In 2022, the search expedition will explore the places of combat operations and landings.

The representatives of the Chuvash Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society, the military of the Northern Fleet, and volunteers will study Soviet and German fortifications (trenches, slit-trenches, bomb shelters), remnants of weapons, military equipment, and household items. The found samples, which are of museum value, will be taken out, restored, and put on display in the exhibition of the Naval Museum of the Northern Fleet. Aerial reconnaissance using a quadcopter will speed up the search and allow to photograph hard-to-reach places from a bird's-eye view.

RGS specialists will examine unaccounted military graves on the pass between Zaozersk and the village of Staraya Titovka, check the condition of three commemorative plaques, and try to establish the names of the fighters. Subsequently, it is planned to set up the burial sites.


Полевой лагерь. Фото предоставлено участниками экспедиции

Last year, a search team surveyed Kildin Island in the northeastern part of the Barents Sea, where a military base was located during the Great Patriotic War. The expedition participants discovered a coastal artillery battery with MB-2-180 turret installations built in the 1930s, an underground storage of torpedo boats in the Dolgaya Zapadnaya Bay, a unique "Object-101" of the “Utes” coastal missile system (only two copies have been preserved – in Crimea and on Kildin). Researchers have restored four monuments at the graves of the dead near Lake Mogilnoye.

The Kola Peninsula occupied a significant place in the plans of the Nazi command. The strategic objectives of the enemy were the capture of Murmansk with its ice-free port, the bases of the Northern Fleet, as well as access to the line of the Kirov railway. In addition, the invaders were attracted by the natural resources of the Kola land, especially deposits of nickel – a metal necessary for the military industry. To achieve this goal, the army "Norway", consisting of two German and one Finnish corps, supported by the units of the forces of the 5th Air Fleet and the German Navy, was concentrated in the Arctic theater of operations. They were opposed by the Soviet 14th Army, which was defending the Murmansk and Kandalaksha directions. From the sea, it was covered by the ships of the Northern Fleet. Active hostilities in the Kola North began in June 1941. At the turn of the Zapadnaya Litsa River, the front line remained until October 1944. On October 7, 1944, the Petsamo-Kirkenes offensive began, during which the territory of the Soviet Arctic was completely cleared of Nazi invaders.

Natalia Sadovskikh