Vítejte na Jelení Ostrov
Jelení Ostrov, or Deer Isle as it's known to foreigners, is a darkly sublime almost idyllic collection of islands just to the east of South Zagoria. Formerly dominated by Soviet military forces and industrial development, recent decades have seen a revivification of the archipelago's natural beauty as the new nationalist regime has cleaned up the area and promoted a policy of conservation. Historically it has been populated primarily by ethnic Chernarussians that settled in the area during the time of Kozlov's Principate in the 11th and 12th centuries. It slowly became something of a medieval fishing hub as more commerce trickled in from the mainland. Eventually this led to the Duke himself taking interest in the island, and a large fortress was established at a large lake in the southern part of the island.
The capital of Kamenogorsk still bears the scars of industrialization
The southern coast of the island is heavily industrialized and has several ports and moorings that can accommodate more cargo ships than any single port in nearby South Zagoria. Two oil rigs were built by the Soviets to exploit the vast crude oil deposits around the island, and one of these was later outfitted with cranes and space to accommodate a large cargo ship but continued to serve as a platform for extracting oil. The capital Kamenogorsk covers a majority of the southern coast and was neatly divided at its creation into various suburbs, with space for a government quarter, an industrial district, and separate outlying areas for the harbor and prison, originally built by the NKVD to house political prisoners.
A map of the archipelago and it's towns
Another rig exists to the east and remained a pure oil rig but following the Chernarussian civil war the platform was taken over completely by the Chernarussian Interior Ministry and used as a blacksite of sorts, generating several rumours as to what exactly was going on there.
A third and final much smaller rig exists amongst the coves and bays on the eastern side of the island and has space for a helicopter. A radar installation and two barracks provide housing, and since 1991 the platform has operated as weather station manned by civilian and CDF personnel. It was briefly occupied by a NATO unit that disappeared in July 2017, allegedly falling prey to an assault during the brief clashes that took place between Russian forces and NATO troops all around the globe at that time.
The largest oil rig has recently been militarized
To the east of the capital lies Podkova Ostrov, housing an important rock quarry that ships granite to the mainland for trade. A few the small outlying islands to the east of the mainland are home to even more research facilities and former Soviet military installations, and despite these eye sores on the landscape these areas are very popular amongst tourists due to the biodiversity present and the variations in landscape.
The western peninsula is home to the largest military installation on the main island, and contains extensive housing, administrative, and storage facilities. 3 large shooting ranges facing west were used as training grounds for various weapons. It is connected to the rest of the island by a train station and a bridge that runs westwards. This base was a sort of hub for Soviet work on the island and following the complete evacuation of all forces in 1991 this installation was scrubbed completely of any trace or material evidence that might have revealed the facilities true purpose.
The Soviet-era barracks at the western base
North and west of the capital lies fertile farmland and sweeping fields surrounded by several farms and residential zones. At the center of this region is an airbase, originally built by the Soviets before World War 2 which was used to counter the Wehrmacht's doomed Operation Fall Blau with air support. Eventually the archipelago was captured by the Nazis and used to support local operations driving towards the Caucasus. This did not last as the Soviets turned the tide of the war and swept the region. A handful of Focke Wulf 190s remained on the airbase following the offensive, a stark reminder of German occupation. These aircraft were maintained and have existed as a part of the island's historical society. After the war, the airbase was eventually expanded into the surrounding region and a number of facilities were built to house personnel and aircraft which still stand. The north of the island remains largely undeveloped and tends to be rocky and difficult to traverse.
FW-190s at the base
A few tunnels, caves, hideaways, and underground spaces exist on the archipelago, some in plain sight and others that are difficult to find. These have contributed to the area's intrigue, but it is also part of the underlying feeling that something sinister is afoot that cannot be seen above ground, and a reminder of the island's dark past.
What can only be described as a gulag exists within the northern reaches of the main island at the center of a swamp, but details about its use during Soviet times have been disputed. Many older people have reported that it was a gulag for those Chernarussian people who had been dissidents against Soviet rule.The terrain of Deer Isle and its outer archipelago is quite varied, with rocky outcroppings, picturesque shores, and the occasional open fields and dense forest creating an ensemble of attractive elements that continued to draw tourists right up to the outbreak.
The northern Gulag
As established in the introduction, Deer Isle was nothing more than a distant archipelago to most peasants in the 1000s. That was at least until the local fishery turned into something of a regional trade post connecting far flung fishing villages of the nascent Chernarussian mainland with a steady flow of ships exchanging goods. Duke Kozlov eventually saw fit to add the island to his principate, establishing two fortresses on the southern side of the island to protect the growing local community.
Duke Radek Vratislaus Kozlov
Ultimately the keeps were handed off to a lesser vassal of the Duke and this nameless regent managed to fritter away his meager holdings and with that the accounting of the island's history for hundreds of years. Despite this mismanagement these structures have been remarkably well maintained, and one of the adjacent hilltop towers is home to a deep cave system.
It is believed that this tower was created to guard the so-called "Hellmouth" beneath the structure, an evil place where the boundaries between hell and earth were weak. Multiple sightings of devilish cryptids were reported before the construction of the tower which was meant to ward off these encounters.
It is believed the island and outer archipelago changed hands several times between the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate, and finally the Ottoman Empire. Prior to the Mongolian invasion it was influenced by the final rump state of the Byzantine Empire, the Principality of Theodoro which deposited a handful of Greek families which remained on the island and intermarried with the local Chernarussian populace.
The island was briefly home to the Khans
Following this tumultuous period, the Russian Empire finally expelled the Ottoman Empire from the area and contributed to a partial modernization of the island in the 1850s. After World War One like Crimea the island served briefly as a small stronghold for a remnant of White Army. This did not last however, and the Red Army stormed the archipelago and utterly vanquished the anti-Bolsheviks.
The Soviet period marked an extensive stage of industrial, military, and civilian expansion on the island. The capital became somewhat of a model city akin to the likes of Pripyat in Ukraine or the infamous Ozersk near Chelyabinsk. Multiple military bases and rather mysterious research facilities were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and this development would continue in earnest right up until shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union when the island was handed over to the fledgling newborn Chernarussian state.
Soviet architecture on the island
This development served to provide a basis for the rather shady operations that the island housed over the course of the Cold War, but it also managed to turn the beautiful shores and crags of the island into a landscape scarred with over-development and industrial waste. This was remedied somewhat as the Chernarussians reclaimed the area and cleaned it up, but it did not pick up as a tourist destination until after the civil war in 2009.
Once the newly formed Russian Federation had properly coalesced as the chaos of the early nineties had abated, the Kremlin quickly worked to return many outlying or rebellious territories to the fold. Nearby Chechnya and Dagestan has their local Islamist insurrections crushed as they attempted to take advantage of the weakened state of the Federation.
Russia began to contest Chernarus claim to Jelení Ostrov, suggesting that the northern part of the island belonged to Russia as the median border between the two nations divided the island. The baseline of claims is disputed as the island falls within 10 miles of both nation's shore. Chernarus also contested Russian rights of transit through the area, and as there are no standard procedures for resolving this type of dispute it continued indefinitely. Multiple Chernarussian ships moving around the island were seized by Russia and held in Sochi.
Jelení Ostrov location in relation to Chernarus and Russia
These disputes continued into the 2000s, and the relatively weak pre-Kozlov Chernarussian government refused to concede but made little attempts to assert dominance for fear of inciting Russia's wrath. Following the Chernarussian civil war and the rise of President Kozlov, relations between the two nations cooled and Russia agreed to relinquish claim of the island in exchange for allowing Russian ships to pass within the previously claimed exclusion zone between the mainland and the island. This all ended upon the annexation of Crimea, resulting in a total reversal of the previous agreement. By this time the Chernarussian military had undergone serious reforms and was prepared to confront local Russian naval forces. As Ukraine was engulfed in conflict the Chernarussian Navy acted decisively and sealed off access to the Green Sea, establishing a cordon around the island that prevented any Russian ships from accessing the trade route.
Watchtowers guard the southern bay
The Russian Black Sea fleet was too occupied at the time with the Ukranians, and this allowed the Chernarussians to intern a handful of Russian military vessels within the range of coastal missile batteries, therefore dissuading any retaliation. Local military presence on the island waned during this period as the government attempted to revitalize and create something of a model Chernarussian society there.
Living standards on the island improved drastically following the civil war. Over the years the island had developed its own unique Chernarussian subculture. Virtually no ethnically Russian families remained on the archipelago following the fall of the Soviet Union. This left the ethnic Chernarussians to make the island their own along with the other few minorities such as the Theodoran Greeks who had by this time intermingled with Chernarussians to the point where they had fully assimilated. Two other minority populations reside there alongside the natives, a collection of Christian Armenians who fled Turkey following the genocide, and a dozen Cossack families who fled the Soviet Union during Stalin's purges. These 3 groups live together in remarkable solidarity and have managed to cultivate a receptive and friendly atmosphere for all those who visit.
Armenian community before arriving at Jelení Ostrov
Despite this, the islanders are generally distrustful of Russians and are fiercely loyal to their own. During 2009 the Chedaki made Jelení Ostrov a main target following their takeover of Utes island to the south-west. However, by this time some CDF troops had retreated to the island, arming the local population to repel any invasion forces. The overconfident Chedaki, bolstered by their easy victories made no scouting missions to the archipelago, and instead opted to use their newly captured aircraft and vessels to rapidly overrun the local defenses. They choose a beach on the western shore for their landing point, arriving and deploying along the beach without resistance. This served to enforce their belief that the rest of their conquest would be as easy.
Members of one of the Chedaki units which was massacred on the shore
Before they could proceed further, they were ambushed the combined forces of local civilians and the CDF, catching the Chedaki unprepared on the beach just north of Jirikov. As the insurgents were tightly packed, they made easy targets for the massed barrage of small arms that engulfed them from the north, east, and west. The Chedaki force was utterly crushed on the exposed beach, their return fire being inaccurate and unable to suppress the loyalist troops. Not a single Chernarrussian was killed by the Chedaki, and the massacre raised the morale of the CDF who were in dire need of some good news given the situation on the mainland.
The archipelago served as a springboard for local CDF forces and their US allies as the offensive to retake South Zagoria began. Utes Island was quickly recaptured by units of the 27th MEU, and Chernarussian government control was restored. Jelení Ostrov was then used as the site of a large US base that provided logistical support to ground troops on the mainland. This base was rather quietly returned to full Chernarussian jurisdiction after the civil war concluded, following intense negotiations that left only two NATO bases on Chernarussian soil.
CDF conscripts train on the island
Local food is a blend of Chernarussian mainland cuisine mixed with some eastern spices brought by the Armenians interspersed with a large reliance on seafood given the location of the island. A local version of shark fin soup is one of the most popular dishes amongst tourists as the shark population in the waters east of the island is significant. A number of historical shipwrecks and various oddities can be found on the seafloor and are frequently explored by divers. Following the cleanup and restoration of the island several large construction rigs and industrial supplies leftover from the Soviet era were cleaned and dumped into nearby waters to create new underwater habitats.
Local shark fin soup
A social media campaign designed to market the island and promote cleanup to tourists in 2012 gained international attention and resulted in hundreds of volunteers from nearby Ukraine and Georgia traveling to take part. Militarily, the main island is critical to the defense of Chernarus. However, the economic potential of the area was equally key to creating growth. Therefore, after the island's legal status was settled, much of the excess created by years of Soviet testing and military occupation was eliminated, and several smaller bases were converted to agricultural sites or used as lightly guarded storage facilities.
An industrial area in the north part of Kamenogorsk
By late 2015 the archipelagos military and governmental status had settled into normalcy. Much of the training for South Zagorias 93rd Brigade was outsourced to the archipelago, with mainland units dumping considerable stocks of vehicles, spare parts, ammunition, and weapons to make room at bases back home. Several smaller bases were tasked with restoring several older aircraft and vehicles to operational levels. Large scale CDF training exercises have historically been undertaken twice a year in the early Summer and mid-Autumn, and the local bases facilitated this and reduced the disruption to civilians in Novigrad, Primorsk, and Miroslavl.Aside from the CDF's presence the Chernarussian government also operates several police stations to maintain law on the archipelago, including a local combined Spetsnaz unit of COBR and OREL officers.
Citizens on Jelení Ostrov watched their TVs and phones carefully as ethnic tensions flared on the mainland during early May 2017. Locally there were few disputes between the islanders as they tended to get along, as the march of time had integrated the Orthodox Christian Armenian and Cossack minorities into the local ethnic Chernarussian majority. Crime was virtually non-existent and this created a carefree and peaceful atmosphere that would be shattered by future events. Curfews and martial law were eventually declared in sections of Chernarus oblasts, driving many citizens to temporarily leave their homes to escape riots.
Jelení Ostrov saw an uptick in visitors as the situation played out, finally cooling in late June. However, the massive military escalation on the 7th of July ruined any hope of a return to normalcy.
As Russian forces targeted the Kamensk and Vybor military bases miles to the west, Jelení Ostrov was awoken by large blasts that engulfed several points around the island and pierced the night air with the thunderous roar of explosions. Cargo ships in the Kamenogorsk harbor were struck by a barrage of Kalibr cruise missiles, triggering a spasm of secondary explosions throughout the south. Fuel storage sites, radar installations, and several other warehouses belonging to the CDF were leveled by the precise barrage which rocked the archipelago.
A warehouse at the dock burns
63 CDF personnel were killed in the attack, and several dozen civilians in the harbor were also caught in the blasts with fatal results. This escalation was soon nearly forgotten as the actual outbreak began in earnest. NATO troops on the island evacuated with their remaining aircraft, leaving a few C-130s strewn about the airfield after a mysterious nuclear blast had scattered US forces and broken their morale, and the state they left the island is evidence of the situation they were in.
As the NATO forces left, the island was put under a quarantine by Major Gregorij Zadek, officer in command of the islands CDF garrison. CDF quickly issued curfews and divided the area into several neighborhoods, nobody was permitted outside during set times of the day. Food was heavily rationed, and unlike the comparatively opulent cities of Miroslavl and Primorsk power and water were turned off at irregular intervals. Shores around the island were patrolled on foot day and night to try and stop any refugees carrying the infection.
The dark shores of Deer Isle
Thousands of refugees flooded Jelení Ostrov in subsequent weeks, arriving in everything from large ferries and ships to smaller boats and fishing vessels. As the situation in Chernarus and the rest of the world continued to deteriorate, the archipelago was seen as a perfect quarantine location. While Utes was several hours away and risky to get to even in a larger boat because of rough open sea, the Jelení islands were much closer to the mainland which made them much more accessible, for better or worse.
The military has set up a provisional exclusion zone in Kamenogorsk docks, which was declared the only entry or exit point on the island. All refugees wanting to take shelter on the island were required to go through that zone and be kept for observation for 24h before being released further into the island, to prevent further spread of the disease. In the first few days of the outbreak, the local CDF garrison was able to handle the incoming stream of refugess, however they had to deal with terrible events where refugees with infection turned in the middle of a waiting crowd and attacked people around them, causing mass panic and chaos. Hundreds have died while trying to get inside at the docks, so many that the bodies had to be disposed with a shot in the head and thrown down from the dock into the water below.
As days passed more and more refugees arrived and events like that escalated in frequency, it was clear that CDF did not have enough manpower to effectively keep quarantine on such a large island, nor to feed all refugees already on it. The quarantine in the docks has been abandoned after only 6 days. Uncontrolled stream of refugees stormed the shores as this news spread, eventually leading to doom of everyone already there. The local CDF garisson retreated with their families and took shelter in the old prison building, before eventually succumbing due to lack of ammunition. As the last inhabitants were killed by the rapidly spreading infection, the news from the island stopped reaching the shore. People knew that the island fell and there was no longer point in going there. On the mainland there was at least always somewhere to run. On the island, there was no escape. The islands fell silent.
Due to the vast number of infected roaming the islands - all the refugees that tried to take shelter there, very few survivors have since tried to go to the island. Most who did were never heard from again. However, there were a few who successfully snuck into the island in search of supplies and have told wild stories of shadow people roaming the island, military activity and even warships anchored off the shore with lights on.
There are reports of shadowy figures roaming the island
In late August 2019 increased levels of radiation have been detected inside Russia, a few dozen kilometers from the Chernarussian border. The intelligence suggested that it was coming from the direction of Pechora nuclear plant, which despite cold reactor shutdown many months ago still had spent fuel inside of pools. After the plant was overrun and abandoned, the water evaporated and fuel was now exposed, burning through the container vessels and releasing deadly radiation into the air and soil below. Many are afraid that soon the radiation will spread to South Zagoria, making areas around the Black Mountains uninhabitable.
At the same time the threat of an incoming Russian invasion is very real with threats persisting throughout the early months of the year and peaking with the bombing of the Saviors north of Severograd and the discovery of waste, plans, and equipment clearly intended for use against the locals.
With these two situation unfolding simultanously, the survivors in South Zagoria are for the first time considering leaving the mainland and heading for Jelení Ostrov, despite the dangers involved and the unknown presence on the islands.