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A Time to Die: The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedyby Robert Moore
Synopses & Reviews
I: 6 a.m., Thursday, August 10
IN A GENTLE CURVE of the hills, surrounded by pine and birch trees, and sandwiched between pristine lakes and the Arctic Sea, the brutal architecture of a Russian garrison town comes into view with first light. Dawn does no favors for Vidyaevo. Gray concrete apartment blocks squat in the valley, crumbling with neglect, and the roads leading to the central square are blistered and cracked. People live in this lonely corner of the Kola Peninsula only because someone has ordered them to do so. The only civilians allowed are the families of the sailors and naval officers, along with a few hundred local workers needed to support and supply the base. They are provided with documents and special passes to get through the security barricades and the perimeter fence. All other outsiders are strictly forbidden.
There are no bars or cafes, no cinemas or sports clubs in Vidyaevo. There is not even a church or a school. This secret, desolate outpost lies within the Arctic Circle, eighty miles northwest of Murmansk. Moscow sits a thousand miles to the south, and the nearest communities are all other submarine bases. The teenagers of Vidyaevo are sent off to the cities to live with relatives; the elderly have sought sanctuary where the geography and the climate are kinder. Only submariners, their wives, and those children too young to be sent elsewhere remain. Those who live in the town say it is a community without a soul. Vidyaevo has 18,000 residents, but no one calls it home.
During the long, brutal winter, the Arctic wind scythes through the town. There are naval ports along this coast where ropes are strung out along the roadsides to allow pedestrians to stay upright in the icy gales. In the humorous slang of the Northern Fleet, the sub base of Gremikha is also called "Flying Dogs," since the town's pets have been known to be blown through the air in the fierce wind. The locals wisely stay indoors or cling to the roadside ropes.
Founded in 1968, Vidyaevo is one of a string of such military towns that the Russian Navy built on the Kola Peninsula during the height of the Cold War. For decades, maps of the region showed no markings at all for the submarine bases. Careful scrutiny of Soviet-era charts reveals just a mass of inlets and fjords and an enigmatic coastline. Only some of the larger towns are marked with mysterious names that hint at military settlements: Base-35, Severomorsk-7, Shipyard-35, Murmansk-60. The official thinking was that if someone had to look at a map or ask directions, he had no business going there in the first place. For much of its short history, Vidyaevo did not officially exist.
The town was named after Fyodor Vidyaev, an impoverished trawlerman from the Volga region who became a legend during the Second World War as a fearless submarine captain. On April 8, 1942, his boat was severely damaged by a German destroyer, and Vidyaev attempted to limp home on the surface. With no power, he ordered the crew to stitch together a sail, tying it between the deck and the raised periscope. Unable to reach land, just as the crew was preparing to scuttle the submarine, they were rescued by another Soviet ship. After further combat patrols, each of them notching up successes against German shipping, in the summer of 1943 Vidyaev's Shch-422 submarine was lost with all hands. In the skilled words of Stalin's propagandists
Discusses the August 12, 2000 sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea, detailing the fate of the twenty-three men trapped inside through an hour-by-hour account of the tragedy and chronicling the dramatic--and ultimately futile--efforts to rescue the crew. Reprint. 30,000 first printing.
Ona quiet Saturday morning in August 2000, two explosions--one so massive it was detected by seismologists around the world--shot through the shallow Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. Russia’s prized submarine, the Kursk, began her fatal plunge to the ocean floor.
Award-winning journalist Robert Moore presents a riveting, brilliantly researched account of the deadliest submarine disaster in history. Journey down into the heart of the Kursk to witness the last hours of the twenty-three young men who survived the initial blasts. Visit the highly restricted Arctic submarine base to which Moore obtained secret admission, where the families of the crew clamored for news of their loved ones.
Drawing on exclusive access to top Russian military ?gures, Moore tells the inside story of the Kursk disaster with factual depth and the compelling moment-by-moment tension of a thriller.
About the Author
Robert Moore is an award-winning TV journalist who was ITN’s Moscow correspondent during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and subsequently served as their Middle East correspondent. Since 1997, he has been their foreign affairs editor, covering a wide range of international stories, including wars in Chechnya, Kosovo and Sierra Leone.
From the Hardcover edition.
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History and Social Science » Military » Naval History