Pripyat: Chernobyl's Abandoned City

Abandoned and once a part of the former Soviet Union, the Ukrainian city of Pripyat sits just mere miles away from the disastrous and well-known Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, closer than Chernobyl itself. It was founded in 1970 with the prime goal of housing the workers of the power plant, as well being a cargo port, and was officially proclaimed as a city in 1979. By 1986, before the Chernobyl disaster, the city’s population had grown to reach 49,400. Just two days after the nuclear disaster, the city was evacuated and only looked back on as history.

Like pressing pause, everything in Pripyat seemingly came to a standstill in the citizens’ hopes that they could soon return to their homes. Pieces of former residents’ lives were left behind in the frantic evacuation—personal items left in homes, unfinished homework littered the desks of void schools, and ruined books stacked in piles on library floors. In a school cafeteria lies thousands of contaminated gas masks, thrown away.

The Pripyat amusement park was to be opened on May 1st of 1986, just five days after the power plant exploded—now, instead of laughing children and active rides, the amusement park is only known for its iconic Ferris wheel, the abandoned ride having appeared in popular games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Over the years of abandonment, miscreants have ransacked and vandalized homes and apartments, stealing pipes, furniture, and other personal belongings; if not stolen, then water-damaged from leaking roofs and spring floods. Trees continue to grow inside and on top of buildings, quickening the deterioration process.

Even the pool was eventually deserted as it had been in active use in 1996, over a decade after the Chernobyl disaster, but by 2009, it had been left for irreparable corrosion.

Everything simply just came to a silent abeyance in the large city.

However, the city still isn’t completely safe. What was supposed to be Reactor 5 remains as it was the day of the disaster, excluding the water pumps built and used to keep water out of the unfinished structure. If the walls were to collapse for any reason, whether it be careless demolishment or inevitable decay, it would release a settled radioactive dust into the atmosphere. For many years, even reactors one, two and three were continuously monitored for they still contained nuclear fuel that needed to remain cool; the transfer process of the undamaged fuel was completed on September 28th of 2013.

Up until 2011, the government didn’t officially consider Pripyat a touring destination. However, for years before, radiation levels have been safe enough for short visits, ranging from as low as ten microroentgens in Pripyat to two-hundred in front of reactor 4, the scene of the meltdown. In 2011, hoping to cash in on tourists, the government opened more touring zones to people with plans of encasing reactor 3 and 4 by 2015 with a new sarcophagus by the name of ‘New Safe Confinement’.

The long abandoned city is visited by people worldwide, averaging 6,000 annually, bringing former residents and curious urban explorers to visit the dead city—a skeleton of something that was once young and modern, which had been a shining example of the faded Soviet Union.

Latest articles