In some instances, a so-called “closed city” may only be marked down on ‘classified maps,’ not accessible to the public domain. In others, it may be, but there are no road signs or directions how to get there. These cities are also commonly omitted from railroad timetables and even bus routes.
Whether you wonder what exactly is a closed city: it’s an urban area where you cannot just stop by without approval of authorities. Often, these can be sensitive military establishments or zones with top-secret research facilities and only people employed there, with their families, can move within its boundaries. And whether you wonder which country has them the most, the answer is Russia.
Much more closed cities existed back in the Soviet times, and during the last years of the Union, their number started to shrink. But even after the break-up, some closed cities continued to exist in a number of CIS countries (such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and so forth). While closed cities were a more elaborate idea in the Soviet days, at present, things seem to be slightly more relaxed. Their current designation in Russia reportedly goes as “closed administrative-territorial formations.”
That is due to the policy of closed cities which underwent significant changes during the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Around this period, cities such as Perm were opened well before the fall of the Soviet Union. Two such cities that may ring a bell better are Kaliningrad and Vladivostok, the second of which counts as one of the most remote cities in the world too. These two places had remained closed until as late as 1992.
At present, there are 44 in total cities or urban areas across Russia for which one may need a special authorization to enter. It is estimated that a population of roughly 1.5 million lives there. Besides this number, it is considered that there are 15 more closed cities, the names and locations of which have never been publicly revealed by the Russian government.
We also thought to remind you of the city of Murmansk, the largest city north of the Arctic circle