Pripyat (as the sign above says) was a relatively new city founded on the 4th of February 1970 to house the construction workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which also started construction in the same year. It is part of the Kievan district (Kievskaya oblast) of Ukraine. Pripyat was far from being just an industrial settlement, it became an important junction for the area. With Yanov railway station a mile or so south and the newly built port on the Pripyat river to the east, it was a popular destination and transit hub for the adjacent villages and towns. By the end of 1985 the town had roughly 47500 citizens and was expected to almost double in due course. Pripyat was built as the exemplary socialist town and had all the commodities and attractions a soviet city could ever need, it was considered young, attractive and far ahead of its time and became a model for Soviet cities in the future.
On the way into Pripyat from the bridge at the end of my last post last post we had to stop at a small hut which was occupied by a leathery looking military guard clutching an AK-47 and smoking a cigarette. Our guide handed him some documents, there was a brief conversation and what sounded like pleasantries and he raised the barrier and waved us in. The main street into Pripyat is called Lenin avenue, on both sides we were greeted with large blocks of apartments now slowly being hidden by trees.
Above is a shot of the town square taken from the top floor of the hotel. Perhaps the most important building in this district is the cultural building on the right, or as it was known at the time DK Energetik. below are a few shots from in and around this structure.
Soviet Mural on the wall inside the cultural center
Sports hall in the rear of the cultural center
Small swimming pool underneath the sports hall
Parts of Pripyat where still in use by plant workers and scientists until the late 90’s as we will see in a later post however, around the turn of the century as workers used buildings less and less, looters started to make their way illegally further and further into the exclusion zone, it was only a matter of time before they arrived at Pripyat. Since then everything of value, mainly metals including heating radiators and window frames have all been stolen and sold for scrap, this is why there is so much debris everywhere. Graffiti also started to appear, a good example of this is the hotel Pollisia, This is the hotel in which Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) and Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard) stay in Episode 2 of Chernobyl on HBO.
Surprisingly, in the morning after the accident, most people went about their business unaware of the magnitude of the disaster that was unfolding less then 3km away from their homes. Radiation levels throughout Pripyat were extremely dangerous and most people were going about their daily lives completely oblivious to this fact. It was only after Forsmark Nuclear power plant in Sweden measured elevated levels at their facility and concluded it must be coming from somewhere in Russia, did the Soviet authorities admit they had a problem. The following warning message was reported on local radio: “An accident has occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the atomic reactors has been damaged. Aid will be given to those affected and a committee of government inquiry has been set up.” By this time at least two people directly linked to the explosion were dead and approximately fifty people had been hospitalized, some of them in Pripyat hospital. More than twenty-four hours after the explosion, the committee ordered the evacuation of Pripyat.
Above: The Hotel Polissia from an overgrown town square. Below: As it was before evacuation (Photo courtesy of Pripyat.com)
Typical hotel room in the Polissia
Above and Below: Taking a wrong turn out of the back of the hotel, everything is being reclaimed by nature. Its easy to get lost.
Building next door to the hotel. Pripyat was officially called atomograd (‘the town of the atomic scientists and workers’)
Hardware store ‘Raduga’ in the town square dwarfed by an apartment block
Leaving the town square we started to make our way over to the hospital, on the way were these old soviet propaganda signs along the pathways.
Below: The signs before the evacuation (Photo courtesy of Pripyat.com)
coming next week I will be taking us through the hospital and other parts of pripyat so be sure to come back, thanks for looking, and as always please feel free to like, comment and share on facebook.