(Roughly) Daily

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”*…

Stalking Chernobyl

In recent years, the Zone, a highly restricted area in northern Ukraine that surrounds the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, has become a tourist hotspot. Each morning, tour buses queue at the entry checkpoint where a souvenir shop plastered with nuclear warning symbols peddles neon keyrings and radiation suits. The guides’ t-shirts read: “Follow me and you will survive”. In fact, the dangers are minimal. Along their tightly demarcated routes, these visitors will be exposed to less radiation than during a routine x-ray.

Existing in the shadows of this highly commodified industry is the secretive subculture of the “stalkers”: mostly young Ukrainian men who sneak into the Zone illegally to explore the vast wilderness on their own terms. The name originates from the 1972 Russian science fiction novel Roadside Picnic. Written by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, it tells the story of contaminated “zones” created on Earth by aliens, in which rogue stalkers roam, hoping to recover valuable alien technology. The book inspired Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 cult-classic film Stalker.

Beyond youthful rebellion, the motivations of the modern stalkers are complex, and speak to the national trauma that resulted from a tragedy whose effects will be felt for generations. And now there is another side to the practice. Enterprising stalkers have started offering their own “illegal tours” to travellers seeking a less restricted (and therefore more dangerous) experience of the Exclusion Zone. I joined one such tour in an effort to discover why visitors might chose a stalker over an official guide. Can a subculture that is so tied to deep wells of personal and national loss really offer something of value to an outsider?…

Accompany Aram Balakjian on a beautifully-photographed expedition through the forbidden area: “Into the Zone: 4 days inside Chernobyl’s secretive ‘stalker’ culture.”

* Uzbek proverb

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As we take the tour, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000, via an announcement by then Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, and after decades of denial, that a U.S. government study conceded that cancer and premature deaths of workers at 14 nuclear weapons plants since WW II were caused by radiation and chemicals.

nuke source

 

 

Written by LW

January 28, 2019 at 1:01 am

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