Photo Essay: Finding beauty in Chernobyl’s decay

Chernobyl’s rapid return to nature puts humanity’s impermanence into perspective. There’s beauty to be found in humanity’s absence...

Lenin Statue

The Last Guard - In 1991, Ukraine had more than 5,500 statues of Lenin — a greater density than in any other part of the former Soviet Union. In the last 20 years, the Ukrainian government has instituted decommunisation or ‘Lenin-fall’, making communist symbols illegal. Today, the only remaining statue of Lenin in Ukraine stands guard at the entrance to Pripyat.

duga-3

The Russian Woodpecker - The giant Duga radar tower, nicknamed ‘The Russian Woodpecker’, was an early warning radar hidden deep in the forest near Chernobyl. With fake signs to disguise its presence, it was a closely guarded secret. Once one of the most powerful military facilities in the Soviet Union, this colossal structure stands 150 metres high and ¾ of a kilometre long. It was abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

concert hall

A Shining City -  Founded in 1970, Pripyat was a planned city of 49,000. It was built quickly for the Chernobyl workers and their families. It had 10 shooting galleries, two stadiums, two cultural palaces, a cinema, a school of arts, and 18,136 trees, 33,000 rose plants, 249,247 shrubs.

supermarket

Sunrise Aisles - “Voshod” meaning Sunrise was one of the first modern supermarkets in Ukraine. It was rumoured to be the only place in Ukraine where Chanel No.5 was sold.

movie theatre

Through the Looking Glass -  A kaleidoscope of color at the entrance to Pripyat cinema. Artists in the USSR had trouble earning a living unless they joined the state-mandated Union of Artists. This union funded and controlled all aspects of artistic life, most importantly the subject of their artwork - idealised visions of Soviet life that promoted communist ideology.

One Day Only - The Prypiat Amusement Park was due to open for May Day celebrations in 1986. It was open for just one day: April 27, 1986 - the day after the Chernobyl disaster, before the announcement to evacuate the Pripyat was made.

Ghost Hotel - Built in the 1970s, senior party officials, high profile delegations, and other visitors to Chernobyl stayed at the Polissya Hotel. After the Chernobyl meltdown, the hotel was used as a command post for operations and clean-up. With a direct view of Chernobyl, spotters stood on the hotel roof and by radio guided helicopters dropping sacks of sand into the inferno reactor fire. 

Frozen in Time - Up to 600,000 civil and military personnel, known as ‘liquidators’, took part in the Chernobyl clean-up. The liquidators hosed down streets, fell trees, and went from apartment to apartment killing the pets of evacuated residents. More than 30 years on, posters in apartments and public buildings remain. 


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