A closed city is a city to which foreign residents and perhaps even domestic residents cannot travel freely. Wikipedia has an informative article on closed cities. The list of closed cities today contains cities in Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA in the United States, but I am unable to confirm the information from Wikipedia as the Oak Ridge website opens with a quite welcoming message, whereas the town of Ostrovnoy, Murmansk Oblast, Russia clearly states on its website (google translate to English that it's ЗАТО г. Островной, i.e. a closed area.

Do closed cities, defined as cities with travel restrictions for foreign or domestic travellers, exist in countries that are not former Soviet states?

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    US citizens can travel freely. There have been laws that prevent US citizens traveling to Soviet block countries, Cuba, Russia, et. Al. But those have been mostly abandoned.
    – user1873
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 22:22
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    US Citizens can travel freely to Cuba? That will come as news to most Americans. Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 23:14
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    Russian closed cities are entire cities that are limited access even to Russians. In Saudi Arabia the entire country is hard to get into for foreigners, perhaps Mecca even more, but does Mecca have travel restrictions for native Saudis?
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 10:27
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    For some reason I'm itching to answer with Area 51/Groom Lake
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 16:14
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    @gerrit In some ways, Mecca is actually easier to get to for foreigners, more than one million of them get hajj visas every year (only if they are muslims obviously but that's not a restriction based on residence or citizenship).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 9:06

3 Answers 3


There are no "closed cities" in the United States. Even Oak Ridge, Tennessee is an open city, although certain of the Department of Energy facilities locate there are "closed" to the public who don't have sufficient security clearances to enter them.

There are several "abandoned town" in the US where trespassing might be charged if a person enters them without obtaining a permit to do so or is not a resident. They include:

  1. Picher,Oklahoma
  2. Gilman,Colorado
  3. Treece, Kansas ( across the state line from Picher,OK and now only has two residents)
  4. Cardin,Oklahoma (abandoned)

All of the above are Environmental Protection Superfund sites due to contamination from lead and zinc mining done in the areas in the early to mid 20th century. All are posted and visitors could be arrested if they enter without permission or refuse to leave when instructed by authorities.



Mercury, Nevada isn't a city or town. It's a government construct made for the purpose of housing people who work at the Nevada Test Site. While the Wikipedia article for it refers to it as a "closed city" this is incorrect. Access to Mercury by the general public was never possible as it only exists because of the site; it is not an organic city. Russian "closed cities" invariably existed prior to the their being closed

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    What about Mercury, Nevada?
    – dan04
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 14:50

Oak ridge TN is a regular small city. It hasn't been closed since probably 1950. I've lived there. Closed cities are usually cities that surround nuclear power plants. Mercury Nevada is still on the list. Netflix has a good documentary called city 40. If you don't speak russian you may have to turn on English subtitles, as it is in Russian and English.


While Russian 'closed cities' really do not and have not existed in the United States, there are cities through U.S. history that have been restricted from the public. In 1943, three cities were created for the Manhattan Project, including the city of Oak Ridge, TN. More than 125,000 scientists and technicians who were part of the Manhattan Project lived there & anyone age 12 or older needed an ID badge to enter. Other secret cities were created & shielded from the public by security fences and natural barriers. One reporter named John Raper accidentally found one of these cities during his vacation in New Mexico and tried to make a story about it called 'Uncle Sam's Mystery Town Directed by '2d Einstein.'. The government squashed any follow up reports and was nearly drafted because he revealed state secrets, only avoiding this fate because he was 60 years old at the time.

tl;dr These 'cities' made as facilities for the nation's smartest minds working on the Manhattan Project during the Cold War are the closest things we probably had in U.S. history to a Soviet closed city. Oak Ridge was one of them, but not anymore since World War II and the Cold War are over as well as the Manhattan Project.

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    So you're saying that Oak Ridge was a "closed city" during WWII, though it's not one anymore?
    – divibisan
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 17:43
  • Yes, that was what I was trying to say.
    – Tyler Mc
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 17:45

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