Learn About The Abandoned Ukrainian Town Of Pripyat

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Once a model town, Pripyat stood out as one of the rare locations in the former Soviet Union where luxuries like Chanel No. 5 were available. However, the passage of time has transformed this once thriving community into a haunting and eerie landscape. Today, tourists wander through a deserted town filled with towering residential buildings. Moreover, Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov, describes it as a textbook illustration of: the blocky architectural Brezhnev baroque. Among the remnants, you’ll find an abandoned hotel, a vacant phone booth, expansive courtyards, and a weathered street sign adorned with a rusty Soviet star, and its arrow pointing aimlessly into the void. 

Pripyat is an abandoned city in Northern Ukraine, located near the border with Belarus. Named after the nearby river – Pripyat, it was founded on February 4, 1970. The town is the ninth atomgrad (a type of closed town in the Soviet Union) to serve the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which is located in the adjacent ghost city of Chernobyl. Furthermore, Pripyat was officially proclaimed as a city in 1979 and had grown to a population of 49,360 by the time it was evacuated on the afternoon of April 27, 1986 – one day after the nuclear disaster.

While Pripyat was originally part of the administrative district of Ivankiv Raion, it currently holds the status of a city of regional significance within the larger Kyiv Oblast. Its administration falls directly under the purview of the capital city, Kyiv. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine oversees Pripyat and manages activities within the entire Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.   

abandoned multiple story building with plants

Why Did Pripyat Become Abandoned?

On April 26, 1986, during a test to determine the required power to sustain the No. 4 reactor in the event of a blackout, a catastrophic explosion occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Station. The explosion led to a fire that caused extensive damage to the building, releasing highly dangerous levels of radioactive chemicals into the air. Over time, these chemicals spread, contaminating millions of square miles across numerous European nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates that approximately 30 people were killed directly by the explosion and subsequent radiation exposure, with the possibility of several thousand additional deaths due to increased cancer incidence over the long term. 

The town closest to the No. 4 reactor was Pripyat – a city of numerous residents, and was founded to accommodate Chernobyl workers. The city boasted an array of amenities, including 15 primary schools, a substantial hospital complex, 25 stores, 10 gyms, parks, cinemas, factories, a pool, and even an amusement park. It was regarded as one of the most beautiful and luxurious cities in the Soviet Union, thanks to its inhabitants. However, due to its proximity to the explosion, the entire city was swiftly evacuated within a mere three hours on April 27.  

old rusty beds without mattresses

What Happened To Pripyat After

More than three decades later, Pripyat stands as a frozen time capsule, capturing the essence of the Soviet Union in 1986. The remnants of communist propaganda still cling to the walls, while personal belongings scatter the streets and abandoned buildings. Lampposts proudly bear the hammer and sickle, awaiting May Day celebrations that never occurred. Toys lie scattered in a schoolhouse, left behind by children who have grown into adults. All the clocks in the city remain frozen at 11:55, forever marking the moment when the electricity was abruptly cut off.

However, contrary to common knowledge, the city was never completely deserted after the incident. Military personnel, police officers, scientists, and other public authorities have utilized the city as a base for radiation-cleaning efforts in the newly established exclusion zone. Surprisingly, some parts of Pripyat still have electricity, and the town still has an operational vehicle base. The water supply for the power plant continues to function, and astonishingly, there are still operational laundries where workers’ uniforms are washed, coexisting with radiation warning signs in the same building.

Ironically, the absence of human presence has proven beneficial for wildlife. Before the Chernobyl disaster, the local wildlife struggled to thrive amidst competition for resources from pine forests and dairy farms. However, with the departure of humans, deer and boar populations swiftly rebounded. Despite inhabiting an environment with radiation levels thousands of times higher than normal, these animals have not displayed evident signs of mutations. While the plant life has exhibited some peculiar abnormalities, including a few species that emit a faint glow, the animal populations have flourished. The return of elk, moose, deer, and boar also heralded the resurgence of their natural predators—wolves and lynx. Today, the animal populations within Pripyat’s borders more closely resemble those found in a national park rather than a radioactive containment zone.  

yellow abandoned ferris wheel

Pripyat Tours Now

Visitors can explore the eerie remnants of the city and gain insights into the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. However, it is important to note that access to certain areas may be restricted due to safety concerns or the deteriorating condition of the buildings. To visit Pripyat, Chernobyl, and the neighboring villages, individuals must first acquire a day pass from the government. These passes can be obtained through tour companies based in Kyiv, approximately 110 kilometers away from the site of the nuclear disaster. Some reputable tour agencies organize trips to Pripyat; however, due to the deteriorating condition of the buildings and structures in the town, many tour companies restrict access to the interiors.

These tours provide a unique opportunity to witness the abandoned city’s haunting atmosphere and learn about the tragic events that unfolded there. Moreover, despite concerns surrounding the crumbling infrastructure, safety is not entirely a major issue during the tours. Lethal radiation exposure typically occurs when levels reach 300 to 500 roentgen per hour. On the guided tours, radiation levels typically range from 15 to several hundred micro-roentgens per hour. Hence, all tours conclude with radiation-level screenings to ensure visitors’ well-being.

However, after a mere three decades of abandonment, the relentless forces of nature are already reclaiming Pripyat. The surrounding forest gradually encroaches upon the town, threatening to engulf it completely in the near future. The passage of time will likely see the complete overgrowth of Pripyat, erasing the remnants of its once vibrant human presence.  

Conclusion

The devastating nuclear explosion at the nearby Chernobyl power plant turned the once-bustling city of Pripyat into an empty and creepy town overnight. The disastrous nuclear explosion put its inhabitants at risk, compelling them to relocate for their health and overall well-being. As years pass by, the eerie remnants of this abandoned ghost town draw curiosity from around the world, despite its potential risks. Consequently, the city has opened its doors to tours, allowing visitors to experience its haunting atmosphere. However, while these tours offer a unique glimpse into the past, it is essential to acknowledge the possible dangers associated with radiation exposure. Moreover, Pripyat stands as a somber reminder of the importance of nuclear safety and the lasting impact of tragic events. The result was a hauntingly desolate city, frozen in time, with memories of a bygone era lingering in its empty streets and dilapidated buildings.

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