SKRUNDA, Latvia — An unknown Russian firm bought an entire Latvian town, albeit, a deserted one, for the price of 1.55 million lats (€2.2 million) in what privatization officials said was a successful auction.
The town, formerly a secret military installation by the name of Skrunda-1, has been vacant for over a decade and its 70 buildings are in an advance state of disrepair. Previously the town was home to as many as 5,000 military personnel, who worked two enormous radar facilities in the area, and their families.
The firm, Alekseevskoye-Serviss, outbid two other foreign participants in the Friday auction — one from Russia and the other representing Azerbaijan — in an auction that lasted two hours.
The final price was significantly higher than the starting price, which is why officials at the Latvian Privatization Agency hailed the auction as a success.
“It fetched 10 times the starting price,” Anete Fridensteina-Bridina, an agency spokeswoman, told The Associated Press, “and finally something can be done with the town.”
It remains to be seen what the investor will do with the property, which spans 45 hectares (110 acres) and has several residential buildings, a school, officers club, sauna and a medical clinic.
A Russian citizen who represented the firm at the auction declined to comment.
Baiba Briede, the agency official who conducted the auction, said there were no restrictions what the investor could do with the real estate and that all the buildings could be torn down.
Pictures from the town, which is still closed and under guard, show building in an advance state of dilapidation. To transform the residential buildings, which contain 550 apartments, into livable premises would require millions of dollars, far more than the scale of the purchase.
Skrunda-1, which is located 5 kilometers north of Skrunda in the Kuldiga region, was built in the 1980s. The military installation had one of the so-called Hen House radar systems that could listen to objects in space and watched the skies for NATO missiles.
The Pechora radar facility was a 19-story building that soared over the Kurzeme countryside. It was exploded by U.S. demolition experts in 1995.
The last residents left Skrunda-1 in 1998. No one has lived there since.