|Welcome to Pripyat. The monument on the road to Pripyat still remains.|
The town of Pripyat was founded in 1970, to be inhabited by future employees of the nuclear power plant that at the time was under construction about 3 kilometers away.
Pripyat was refered to as an "atomgrad", that is an "atom town" (in the Soviet Union there were nine atomgrad, each of them connected to a nuclear power plant and founded for the purpose to house the workers) and would eventually come to be inhabited by close to 50 000 people from 25 ethnic groups.
In 1977, the first of the ChNPP's four reactors was ready to operate and två years later, Pripyat was officially proclaimed as a city.
Pripyat is commonly and often spoken about as a "young" city, where the average age of the citizens was 26 years. Most of the inhabitants were of course employed at the NPP, but naturally, the town also had an evolved infrastructure with factories, a hospital, schools, police office, fire brigade, culture centers and so on.
|May 1st celebrations in Pripyat. From pripyat.com|
A solid education was highly valued and in Pripyat there were no less than 15 elementary schools, five secondary schools and one training school. Any higher education than that was not offered, but neither was there any direct need for it, as it was natural for the inhabitants to stay, settle and live their lives in Pripyat rather than look out into the rest of the world. As a matter of fact, it was a question of the opposite; every year approximately 500 people arrived from different parts of the Soviet Union, to become citizens of Pripyat.
Pripyat offered its people a good life. There were all the attractions and comfort that a modern Soviet city could offer, and more. The small city was before its time and thus in many ways manifested the Soviet ideals of happiness through work and ideological connection and fellowship and even today you can see many traces of the old communist Soviet - especially in the school ruins, where Lenin still lives on and the walls are still decorated by sayings and epigraphs like:
"The quality of knowledge today is the high efficient work of tomorrow"
Pripyat was also a city of architectural and cultural innovation. New projects were designed and put to be tested in Pripyat before being adapted to the Soviet standard and many new constructions were on blue prints. A shopping center; an arts gallery; recreational and educational centers for children ("Pioneer's Palace"), and a hotel were all planned to have opened by the end of 1988.
After the explosion in the 4th reactor, many Pripyat inhabitants gathered on the railway bridge, just outside of the city, to watch what was happening at the nuclear power plant. . They saw beautiful flames in all the colours of the rainbow - it was the graphite burning and the flames reached higher than the pillars of smoke, but what the onlookers didn't kow, was that the radioactive wind that swept right towards them, exposed them to a dose equivalent to 5 Sv (500 Roentgen. Exposure to 750 Roentgen/h, that is 7,5 Sv, is a certainly lethal dose for a human being). They had been told not to worry - all levels of radiation were perfectly normal.
Of the people standing on the railway bridge (nowadays also known as "death's bridge") that night, no one survived.
The citizens of the city were urged to continued calm; they were again informed that there was absolutely nothing to be alerted about and it took just over 36 hours before Pripyat was finally evacuated. The following is the information that reached the people on Sunday the 27th of April:
"Attention, citizens of Pripyat! The City council informs that due to the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the radioactive conditions in the vicinity are deteriorating. The Communist Party, its officials and the armed forces are taking necessary action to combat this. But, with intentions to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, prioritizing the children, we need to temporarily evacuate the citizens to the nearest towns of the Kiev region. For these reasons, starting from April 27, 1986 14:00 every apartment block will have a bus at its disposal, supervised by the police and city officials. It is highly advisable that you bring your documents, vital personal belongings and a certain amount of food with you, just in case. The senior executives of the public and industrial facilities of the city have decided on the list of employees who will remain in Pripyat to maintain these facilities in a good working order. All resident buildings will be guarded by police during the evacuation period. Comrades, as you will be leaving your residences temporarily. please make sure you have turned off all lights, electrical equipment and water, and shut the windows. Please keep calm and orderly in the process of this short-term evacuation."
And indeed the evacuation of Pripat was handled orderly as well as efficiently and within only a few hours the city was completely emptied, spare from soldiers and the workers and officials that had been oredered to stay. Believing that the evacuation would last for only a few days, people only brought their most necessary belongings, but most of them would never see their homes again. There were those who tried to return, having realized that Pripyat was forever lost, to fetch belongings of affection. Some succeeded, but many more encountered alarm wired buildings and armed military.
Not only Pripyat was evacuated, but at all, about 100 000 people were forced out of their homes, of which approximately half were from nearby villages. Of these villages, many were completely destoryed, but to where the houses remained, some people would choose to return; most of them old people who neither could nor wanted to adapt to a new life at a new, to them strange place, and thus they returned to their old houses and farms.
|Resident buildings of Pripyat, May 2011|
Today Pripyat is a ghost town. Nature has made its re-entry; roads and streets are almost completely over grown and the windowns of the buildings gape dark and empty and the most of it has been plundered and destroyed by the passing through of outsiders.
The official frequency of visitors to the Zone is approximated to a couple of thousands per year, but no one knows for sure how many illegal visits are performed every year.
To gain access to the Exclusion Zone (the 30 km radios around the ChNPP), special permission is needed, but nonetheless many have ignored this and instead found other ways to enter, often motivated by the "adventure", but also to gather "souvenirs" and trophies, and thereby also more likely to cause even greater destruction than the "normal" tourism, which is held under relatively strict control.
Pripyat is decaying naturally, just like any other place created by man that's left unattended, but the destructive tourism is increasing the effect.
"Take nothing but photographies,
leave nothing but footprints."
Since the 20th of June and forth, the Ukrainian government have closed the Zone for all tourism.