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The Ultimate Guide To Seversk- One Of Russia’s Closed Cities

Seversk: a name that might not ring a bell unless you’re into cities with more secrets than a spy novel. Tucked away in the cold steeps of Siberia and born out of the Cold War’s cloak-and-dagger days, Seversk (formerly known as Tomsk-7) isn’t your typical hometown. If this sounds intriguing and you would like to learn more about this city, keep reading; this article covers all the important (but limited) information you can find about this closed Russian city.

What Are Closed Russian Cities?

seversk in winter

Only in Russia, you’ll find closed cities that are basically the country’s own top-secret hideaways, each with a story that’s more hush-hush than a spy novel. Picture this: during the chilliest days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had these special cities that didn’t even exist on maps. They were the real ‘now you see them, now you don’t’ kind of places.

The origin of these closed cities, or “ZATO” (Closed Administrative-Territorial Formations), dates back to the Soviet era. They were established primarily for security reasons, often around military installations, secret research facilities, and other sensitive areas. Think of them as the Soviet Union’s way of keeping its cards close to its chest, especially concerning the arms race and nuclear research.

Access was restricted, and residents often needed special passes. In these cities, secrecy wasn’t just a policy; it was a way of life.

Fast forward to today, and many of these cities have come out of the shadows, at least a little. Some remain closed due to ongoing military or research activities, but others have relaxed their restrictions and even welcomed tourists.

These cities are like time capsules, preserving a slice of Cold War history and offering a unique glimpse into a world where secrecy, science, and security were intertwined.

A Little Bit About Seversk

Seversk Russia

Picture this: a city cloaked in mystery, nestled in Russia, where the ‘Closed City’ sign isn’t just for show. This isn’t your average tourist spot – it’s Seversk, previously known as Tomsk-7, a name that sounds straight out of a spy novel.

So, why the secrecy? Well, rewind to 1949. The Cold War was more than just a frosty political standoff; it was the era of the nuclear arms race. Russia, keen on not falling behind, decided, “Hey, let’s build some secret cities for our atomic work.” Enter Seversk, stage left, one of those cities.

What’s in it? Think less about bustling marketplaces and more about nuclear reactors and isotopes. Seversk is home to the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC), a name that pretty much tells you it’s not about making perfume. This facility is all about nuclear research and production. And by that, I mean stuff like plutonium production for nuclear weapons and processing nuclear fuel. Not exactly your typical factory job, right?

So, what’s Seversk known for? Well, aside from its ‘Top Secret’ label, it’s a testament to the lengths countries go to in the name of national security and scientific advancement. It’s a living, breathing relic of the Cold War, but with a modern twist: still operational, still secretive, and still fascinating.

Can You Visit Seversk?


Well, it’s tricky. Seversk is like that exclusive club with a bouncer who doesn’t smile. You need special permission to get in and getting it is not a simple feat by no means.

Why all the secrecy? It’s about security, really. This city is part of Russia’s strategic facilities, and they’re not keen on having tourists wandering around their top-secret nuclear work. It’s less ‘Welcome to Seversk’ and more ‘Nothing to see here, folks.’

But if you do want to visit Russia, make sure to check out our list of vacation spots in Russia and this list of underrated destinations in Russia.

A Brief History Of Seversk

severs closed city russia

Picture this: it’s 1949, the world is knee-deep in the Cold War, and the nuclear arms race is like the world’s most dangerous track meet. Russia’s thinking, “We’ve got to get in on this action,” and voilà, Seversk (then known as Tomsk-7) enters the scene.

Seversk was built with the goal of being a key player in the Soviet Union’s nuclear program. The main “attraction” was the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) producing plutonium for the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal. 

In addition to this, Seversk was a proper city, with people living, working, and raising families. Think of it as a small, cozy community, except with the added excitement of living in a place that doesn’t officially exist on maps. It’s like living in a town-sized secret.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, closed cities were allowed to get back their previous names, and Tomsk 7 was renamed to Seversk once again. In the late 80s and early 90s, the restrictions were partially lifted at least for the city’s residents, many of whom were regularly traveling to neighboring Tomsk for work but the city remains closed to non-residents even today.

Are you looking for some Russia travel inspiration? Then you may also like our guide to visiting Sochi, our guide to taking the train from Moscow to Vladivostok, and our guide to Yekaterinburg.

Life In Seversk

life in seversk

First off, how’s Seversk run? It’s like a tightly-knit community with an extra layer of government oversight. You see, it’s a closed city, which means the Russian federal government keeps a pretty close eye on it. It’s not exactly “Mayor Joe runs the town” – more like “Big Brother is watching… and also managing.”

The main gig in town is the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC), which deals in all things nuclear. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill factory; it’s about as high-stakes as the industry gets. Aside from that, there’s a mix of support services and smaller industries that cater to the needs of a city that’s not exactly on the tourist trail.

Economically speaking, Seversk is like a one-trick pony, but that trick is nuclear science. The city’s economy revolves around the SCC.

The city is located in Siberia, so here, you get the typical Russian winters– long, cold, and snowy, while summers are short and mild. It’s the kind of place where you get to know your snow shovel on a first-name basis.

As far as connections to other cities, Seversk is not the most connected place. Being a closed city, it’s kind of like a secret club. You can’t just hop on a bus and go to Seversk. Access is restricted, and you need special permission to visit.