Named after the Pripyat River that the city was built along the banks of, it is now a silent ghost town where nature is winning the battle against man. Founded on the 4th February 1970 it was a nuclear city built for those working at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It’s 49360 inhabitants were evacuated on the afternoon of 27th April 1986, a day after the nuclear disaster.
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Exploring Pripyat City
Coming through the last checkpoint, the grass grows on the verges. The roads, once wide boulevards are now narrow with overgrown verges, nature creeping through the seasons ever closer to meeting in the middle. The paths between tower blocks are now a mass of vegetation, accessible in the winter months but by summer they are gone for another year.
The main square is clearly there. The tarmac and roads ensure that weeds are kept in control, but even so, the stronger trees have found a way through the man made barrier. The once ornate flower beds with the thousands of roses planted across the city are disappearing and being taken over by seeds that blow in on the wind.
In the main Lenin Square the Palace of Culture Energetik is dominant with its large frontage and curving covered walkway to Hotel Polissia. Once the centre of this thriving city it is slowly falling to pieces. It is out of bounds, the windows are broken and the ceilings are slowly falling in on themselves. Posts of the Soviet Leaders are discarded in a small room. Ready to be put up for the May Day celebrations they were never used.
At the far end of the main square is the Voskhod supermarket. An unusual place in Soviet cities at the time. It was well stocked, the model of everything a supermarket should be and one of the perks of living in this nuclear city. It is now desolate. The front windows are long gone, the shelves destroyed by the liquidators. A collection of trolleys are spread through the shop floor and a random sofa now sits in the centre of the aisles. Beneath the supermarket a warren of tunnels eventually emerge under the post office, once the service area it is dark and forgotten.
Cinema and Music Hall
Both the Cinema and the Music Hall have ornate mosaics on their exterior walls. While the interior is decaying and dangerous, the outsides are still beautiful with bright intricate designs showing visitors where they are visiting. Exploring these buildings from the overgrown meadows that surround them it is easy to feel the enthusiasm for live that the inhabitants of the city would have felt.
It is easy to see the Soviet Era beauty of Pripyat. In today’s design trends it is ugly and block built, but in its own way you can see how it would have been a desirable location and a real benefit of getting employment at the Nuclear Power Plant.
It is hard to imagine what the city would be like today had the disaster not happened. Maybe it would have continued to thrive and flourish. The children who were growing up in the tower blocks would have been parents by now, the schools would be seeing second generation pupils and the young population would be growing older.
Places to Explore in Pripyat
- Palace of Culture Energetik
- Hotel Polissia
- Tower Blocks
- Music Hall
Pripyat city has a number of option for photography. It should be remembered that buildings should not be entered. They are slowly collapsing. One of the biggest is one of the secondary schools. Half of the building is now a pile of rubble with classrooms teetering on the edge of collapse. Take care and stay away from all structures. They may look secure but it won’t take a lot to bring them down.
On a brighter note, photographing Pripyat City is like photographing any other city without the hassle of vehicles or people. You can wander at your own pace and take your time to get the shot you want (within the limits of your groups pace and tour leaders boundaries!). No specialist equipment is needed and a phone is as good as anything to record your visit.
Remember to look for smaller details that bring a story to the photograph. Think about the life of the people here. Look for reminders of their lives, but also for the unusual. It’s not everyday that you see a pink chair in the main square of a city or a hospital wheelchair wrapped in dog rose.
Getting to Pripyat
Pripyat is located in the centre of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone just a short distance from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It can be explored on foot with a guide or you can be taken from location to location by vehicle although this takes away from the feeling of exploring.
Theses tours can be booked online and depart from Kyiv in Ukraine, about 2 hours drive from the first checkpoint into the Exclusion Zone.
Find out more about planning and booking a tour to the Chernobyl Exclusion zone