At the time of the accident Chernobyl, was about 800 years old and had c.15,000 people. Today it has about 3,000 inhabitants. Down the road, the City of Pripyat was built in 1970 to house the plant workers. It was a planned city, and if one looks at it from above, the shape of a sickle becomes evident in the main plaza. On April 25th, 1986, Pripyat had about 49,400 inhabitants. Had the accident not occured, estimates place Pripyat’s population in 2010 at close to 80,000. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 6 A City in Numbers”→
I saw first hand, and later heard my guide laugh at how many people actually ask if there are mutant monsters running around Pripyat. Perhaps this is due to the influence of games like Call of Duty and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that take place in Pripyat and Chernobyl. I also noticed that most of the visual work since the accident is tainted by making the desolation and evacuation of the city seem like the result of a nuclear bomb rather than a nuclear accident. In any form, radiation is invisible and deadly, but it does not blow-out windows and destroy buildings. The broken floors and crumbling walls are mainly the scars inflicted by a massive clean-up operation, but not of the accident itself or of the ensuing evacuation. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 4 Disaster Porn”→
In the Ukraine, I was surprised at how nobody who was organizing the trips had actually been to Chernobyl. Perhaps this has to do with the high cost of visits in relation to local salaries. What most people were familiar with, and they kept on mentioning to me was “stalquer”. It took me nearly a week to realize that they were saying “S.T.A.L.K.E.R”, a well know, Russian developed computer game that takes place in Chernobyl and Pripyat. Gradually I realized, that although most had been affected directly or indirectly at the time, for the Ukrainian generation under 30, much of what they knew about Chernobyl after the fact was through association. Computer games, outside media, and foreign interest fill a void left by the lack of an established Ukrainian educational system and an older generation that was often quiet about the topic. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 3 Computer Games and Denial”→
Until I traveled to Chernobyl I never questioned the cause of the accident. I imagined some critical component malfunction, and I remember the bad jokes that quoted, “What’s this button for?”. Sadly, the latter is closer to the truth. An article written by Boris Gorbachev in 2003, reviewing causes of the accident, quotes a plant manager describing the lack of care among employees, saying:
“Can you imagine – it was possible to see an operator sitting on the control board. The one with buttons, tumblers….