Chernobyl Villages is Where Time Stopped
Chernobyl exclusion zone used to be home for more than 200,000 of people. 50,000 of them lived in Pripyat city, 15,000 in Chernobyl town and the rest lived in the villages all over the zone. The accident of 1986 converted this area into uninhabited land with few exceptions and swiped entire culture. Today, visiting remote villages of 30 km zone gives the understanding of not only how people lived in rural area, but also how they maintained authentic culture during Soviet times.
According to official data, the first wave of evacuation of the population lasted from April 27 to August 16, 1986. A total of 81 settlements in Kyiv and Zhytomyr regions were evicted at the first stage of the evacuation. About 90,000 people were displaced (although there are data on 115,000 displaced people). Exploring all of the villages of Chernobyl zone is pretty hard even in multiple day tours. However, there are some of them which are really worth visiting first.
There are not so many places in the zone where looter haven’t got so far. One of them is Mashevo village. Before the accident, almost 300 people lived in the village. There is one of two schools in the zone where the internal filling hasn’t changed much since 1986. Private houses are also full of books, clothes, letters and photos.
On the way to Mashevo there are Zimovyshche and Krasne villages. The central estate of the Pripyat collective farm, which included a machine-tractor station, was located there. Today, you can still see the remains of cars, well-preserved bulldozer, combine harvesters “Niva”, the basics of trucks, an old crawler tractor, drills and other special equipment.
Krasne village is famous for its wooden church. It was built in 1800 and now is one of two churches in the zone which are still in use. Every year the church is visited by former residents of the village. Also, there is a cemetery and monument to Unknown Soldier nearby.
There is Kupovate village in the southeastern part of the zone approximately 30 km away from Chernobyl town. Officially, Kupovate is a non-residential village, but practically re-settlers live there – people who returned to their homes after the evacuation in 1986 and continued living there. Today, there are 16 people in the village. It is not the only “inhabited” village in the zone, however, most people live in Kupovate.
Unlike young Pripyat, the international city of the Soviet Union, where the Russian language and the Soviet culture were dominating, the Chernobyl region itself traditionally was Ukrainian region. It can be seen from the signs on the shops and other building, books thrown on the floor of the schools and letters left in the private houses. Visiting remote villages of the zone reveals another layer of the whole story about the area and the accident.