It might sound unbelievable, but Ukraine has its own Pamir hidden in a small nook in the Carpathians, in Bukovyna. Once a secret air defence station, it is now a picturesque tourist spot shrouded with mysterious riddles and mystical stories. The ‘Pamir’ is, of course, not as tremendously high as the same-name mountain range in central Asia, but it is one of the highest points in Ukraine (over 1500 meters).


When you first see the design of the observatory, you get the impression that extraterrestrial civilizations decided to settle on the unreachable peaks of the Carpathians and started building their residence there. The huge weird-looking white spheres seem to have some magnetic power, contrasting with the wild nature of the mountain landscape. It is difficult to imagine that these structures have been there for over 70 years. In the midst of the Cold War, the Soviet government decided to construct a secret military station that was meant to take control of the airspace from Turkey to the Baltic Sea. The choice of the terrain was perfect: the peak of the unknown Tomnatyk mountain, covered with dense, impenetrable forest. It was there that the radar stations were built, where under each dome an antenna was hiding, scanning a certain frequency range. The technologies used to detect and recognize the flying objects were already quite advanced back then — the design bureau that was working on the project even received the country’s most prestigious award — the Lenin Prize.


The work on the military facilities started in the mid-1960s. ‘Pamir’ was provided with permanent ground alert — about 80 military personnel worked there, the full capacity of the station reaching 120 people. Every six months a general inspection of the equipment took place: its accuracy and suitability were determined. The principle of operation of the air defense station was to scan the space with several radars, determine the course of the aircraft, immediately transmit information to the military corps in the nearby town, and from there — to the regional defense headquarters in Lviv. As the station workers claim, ‘Pamir’ also had a special secret staff member who daily changed the secret codes of the devices. Another interesting fact: the information about the presence of a military object on the mountain slopes was so carefully guarded that the residents of the villages around became aware of the unusual neighbor only in the late 1980s.


Let’s talk in a bit more detail about those white domes of the station that decorate many photos on social networks and are a dream of directors for futuristic shots. The white coverings were actually created to protect the extremely sensitive radars from the powerful Carpathian winds, harsh frosts, and snowstorms. Their surface is made of fiberglass and can withstand a snow load of more than 250 kg, ± 50°C temperature changes and wind speed up to 30 m/sec. Such protection of the airspace defense headquarters can be definitely called a triumph of the engineering thought of the time! If only the creators of the station had known what would happen to their work 30 years later…


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the maintenance of such a grandiose object required special financial and military resources, which the newly created state lacked. Therefore, in the mid-1990s, ‘Pamir’ stopped working. It is only the domes and the radar ‘P-14 Lena’ that survived after the visits of easy money seekers and remind of the past greatness of the station. For a long time, only the locals’ grazing animals and tourists who lost their way could be seen here. With time, the terrain became an interesting object for extreme travelers and fans of apocalyptic landscapes. The ‘balls’ (as the locals call them) became even more popular after the music video for Jamala’s song 1944, with which the singer won Eurovision in 2016.


The history of the defense station is covered with various breathtaking mysteries, mystical stories, and secrets that make the heart beat faster. The military personnel who used to work there used to recall a meeting with a UFO. Their eyes full of anxiety and voices lowered, the witnesses were telling about an extremely brightly glowing device that was moving silently, and most importantly, was not detected by any radar. What it was and where it disappeared remains a mystery. There is also a legend among the locals that a secret tunnel was made between the Tomnatyk Mountain, where the military station is located, and the strategic base in Chernivtsi. Besides, they say that after the station was closed, not everything was dismantled: part of the equipment and systems were preserved and encased in concrete. However, we can only guess if it’s the truth of fiction.


Nowadays the avant-garde looking structures are under the protection of the Cheremosh National Nature Park management — thanks to them, life is coming back to this place — not in a military format, but as to a tourist attraction now. Since 2017, the ethnographic Pamir-FEST Festival has been held there for fans of mountain recreation and authentic Bukovyna culture. For the event, two domes of the military base were decorated with national ornaments, which made the site even more colorful and attractive.

So, if you want to enjoy the vision of an alien-looking touristic site, you are welcome. Don`t forget to say, “Knock, knock…”

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