Chernobyl is a city with a long and tragic history. It was first mentioned in writing as early as 1193, when it was a hunting lodge on territory of the Kievan Rus. In the following decades it was a village that belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at one point, and then later the Kingdom of Poland. Eventually it annexed and became part of the Russian Empire.

During the First World War, the city was occupied and as that war ended, and the civil war unleashed by the Russian Revolution began, Chernobyl became a battleground between the Bolsheviks and Ukrainians, as both tussled for control. The 1920s, there were mass deportations from Chernobyl, as many of its residents were sent East as part of joseph Stalin’s collectivisation agenda. 20 years later, in the 1940s Chernobyl was occupied by the Nazis, and the Jews that lived there, and who formed the majority of the city’s population, were sent off to be murdered.

In the 1960s, it was decided that a new nuclear power station would be built about nine miles north of Chernobyl. Originally, the plan had been to build the power station around 25 kilometres outside of Kiev. But, because of safety concerns, a location further away from the large metropolitan area of Kiev was chosen, and Chernobyl 90 kilometres north of Kiev, secluded in the marshy, sparsely populated region close to the Belarussian border was the beneficiary.

At the time of the nuclear disaster in 1986, the city’s population was 14,000. Within 30 hours of the disaster, they had all been bussed away, and their city with over 800 years of history became a ghost town. The former residents of Chernobyl were resettled in the city of Slavutych, along with those that had once lived at the nearby city of Pripyat.

Chernobyl City