As seen in this earlier article, there are numerous reasons why settlements become deserted and are reduced to ghost towns. Depletion of natural resources, surplus industry and lawlessness have all contributed to settlers uprooting themselves and their families and moving on. But sometimes disasters on an unprecedented scale can lead to larger urban areas – even whole cities – being abandoned. Pripyat in Ukraine, once home to 50,000 people, is one of the most notorious examples. Founded in 1970 to house workers from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, it was abandoned in 1986 following the terrible disaster that happened there, and has been a “zone of alienation” ever since.
After the catastrophe, Pripyat was abandoned in just two days. The city of Slavutych, 45 miles to the west, was built as replacement accomodation for scientists and plant workers in 1986. Over the years, lack of maintenance and heavy vandalism have left the buildings in Pripyat in a serious state of disrepair. Some of the buildings are literally decaying into the ground, as seen in the partial collapse of a former school in 2005. It is now not uncommon to see the works of man and nature coexisting side by side, as trees and plants engulf the crumbling buildings.
The zone of alienation is considered relatively safe today, and the city can even be visited with a guide. While the perimeter is guarded by police, a number of Ukrainian companies offer tours and obtaining permission is reportedly easy. But even so, this is surely still very much an “at your own risk” activity… For those who do try and obtain permission, the swift nature of evacuation meant that many internal fixtures remain inside the buildings, such as cots in a children’s nursery (pictured), giving the city a eerie and reportedly uncomfortable atmosphere.
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