Lithuania, as with many other post Soviet countries is undergoing cultural change, disposing of the past memories and memorials of Soviet Empire and seeking salvation in new power which promises new life. Twenty years ago, Soviet troops left the country, abandoning their military bases, and taking anything movable and burying the rest. After they had finally left, the local population saw an opportunity and started taking the abandoned equipment to sell on black market. Much of it was made from expensive materials such as gold silver and platinum, allowing some individuals to get richer by dismantling the computers and other equipment left behind. That behaviour is well documented in Siauliai, a town where the largest airfield in the USSR outside of Russia's borders was located.
Zokniai (the name of the area and the airfield) was a military town housing most of the workers before the collapse of Soviet Union, but now it is almost unpopulated. A small part of the airfield itself has now been taken over by NATO as a base for jet jetfighters and helicopters. Lithuania's geographical position in the centre of Europe made it perfect for launching an attack into western Europe in the event of war. For this reason much emphasis was put on this area.
Now, there is not much left apart from a few hangars where my mother used to work as an engineer. Most of them have been dismantled by locals or the government.
When I was small, I remember my grandmother used to work in a military barracks, located by my kindergarten, and I used to come in almost every day to play with the pilots. They always saved chocolate bars for me which they were given for their flights. Since then Lithuania has changed dramatically.
In this set of images I have also included few other photographs from smaller airport Istra, which is located near the town Panevezys. The aircraft left in the snow remain as a memorial of recent Lithuanian history. They may, however, be removed soon along with most of the Soviet statues to forget this past and start creating new independent future.
The basic technical information about Zokniai airfield:
Runways: 3.5km long and 45m wide, large enough to land a space shuttle.
A total area of 280.000 square meters.
Garrison of 55,000 troops, and 50 hangars housing MiG-29 fighters