Chernobyl, 20 Years Later
May 27, 2007 1:50 PM   Subscribe

A striking essay with photos documenting a visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Mark Resnicoff, a database programmer and amateur photographer, visited Chernobyl and took a schwack of atmospheric photos. This reminded me of a set of slightly-controversial Chernobyl photos from 2004. Wikipedia provides a little context on KiddofSpeed, the photographer in question with an awesome Engrishesque nickname.
posted by dbarefoot (26 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for the post dbarefoot. More ElenaFilatova (KiddofSpeed) pics at her website (mirrored angelfire site).
posted by acro at 2:04 PM on May 27, 2007

More photos here.
posted by acro at 2:14 PM on May 27, 2007

Thank you - a good find
posted by YAMWAK at 2:35 PM on May 27, 2007

Fantastic, thank you!
(I now have to work 'schwack' into daily use.)
posted by cmyk at 2:59 PM on May 27, 2007

They went inside!
Good post. The pictures are nice and big.
posted by jouke at 3:09 PM on May 27, 2007

Interesting post, dbarefoot, thanks.

The inspiration for Mark Resnikoff's trip to Chernobyl: The Chernobyl Poems of Lyubov Sirota. Lyubov Sirota has a son, Sasha, who started an excellent website, It's colorful, written in Russian-English.

Pripyat is a city near the Chernobyl nuclear station. Among the things reported in is the looting going on. yikes! Scary! Ironically, what was being stolen from the Chernobyl buildings were cast iron radiators, dozens of them. Radiators horribly charged with radiation. Probably lethal radiation for anybody having one of those radiators in their house, especially with a young kid.

21 years ago, when the Chernobyl disaster happened, it was scary. The week after in NYC the temperature went up and down 40 degrees in one day, which I thought foolishly, was Chernobyl's fault, not just crazy and typical May NYC weather.

Elena's fascinating, passionate sites have impressed me with their compassion, scientific curiosity and courage. Her recent site, The Serpent's Wall with all the pictures of bunkers, history and things she and her friends have found, is worthy of a post in itself.

Paul Fusco has an extraordinary and horrific photographic essay on the same topic, Chernobyl 20 years later.
posted by nickyskye at 3:30 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by nickyskye at 4:59 PM on May 27, 2007

The KiddofSpeed photos were all over the blogs in 2004 when it first happened. But it later turned out that she represented herself as a nearby resident that snuck in riding on her motorcycle, when in fact she was just part of a regularly scheduled tour.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:09 PM on May 27, 2007

Great post, thanks.

The photo of the child's drawing (bottom of page) in one of the abandoned villages is eerily reminiscent of the drawings done by children in Terezinstadt.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:51 PM on May 27, 2007

That child's drawing is haunting. Both of them.
posted by nickyskye at 6:00 PM on May 27, 2007

Near the bumper cars, we recorded radiation levels of 340 uR/h , and one step to the left the levels were 1,200 uR/h . This was a good example of the extreme variability of radiation in the city and the entire Zone.

What causes such disparity? I would think that the radiation levels would be fairly linear, without these jumps.
posted by geoff. at 6:03 PM on May 27, 2007

Nickyskye, those photos are haunting. When you look at the other photos of the abandoned area, it's easy to forget about the people who are still affected. Thanks for the reminder.
posted by found dog one eye at 6:22 PM on May 27, 2007

What causes such disparity?

Different elements have different properties, and different isotopes have different emissions. A wide range of elements and isotopes will be generated over time (the decay chain). Some will be water soluble, some not. This will affect how and where they are dispersed. Likewise, some isotopes will be taken up by various biological processes and organisms, and used in different ways depending on the isotope, and so on.

Or it could be something else. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:22 PM on May 27, 2007

Rhomboid, Your comment had me Googling. Elena says the Chernobyl site " is 130kms from my home". Looking at the WayBack Archive at her site, it seems quite possible that she went with a tour to Chernobyl, wearing her bike jacket, and returned on her bike, wearing her bike jacket. So what?

She made Chernobyl a reality for many Europeans and Americans. None of the other people on those bus tours did, or they would have been heard from.

I mean how the hell could Elena take her bike with her on a tour bus? Did she take the bike out of the bus storage and pose herself every time? Who would lift this bike in and out of the bus storage compartment?

Elena Filatova put together the most comprehensive, well documented, informative and personally meaningful site about Chernobyl on the web at that time. In English. And I think is true even to this day.
posted by nickyskye at 6:59 PM on May 27, 2007


When I saw the original Kiddofspeed website, none of the photos that included the bike appeared to be taken in the deadzone. The premise of the site was that she regularly went to the deadzone to cruise hundreds of miles of roads with no speed limits, red lights, or traffic lights, and this appears to be just plain not true.

I loved the site (and still do) for (some of) the pictures, but treating it as informative is treading on risky ground. That said, I haven't seen the site recently, maybe it has become informative?

I'm happy to call it both a hoax, and awesome. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:23 PM on May 27, 2007

I was very relieved to see all the cranes around the sarcophagus, including the one big yellow tower crane. They're there to do rehabilitation work on the sarcophagus itself. You can't see them in any of the photographs from just a few years ago.

I didn't see any evidence of the Shelter 2 that they are going to build on tracks to roll over and enclose the sarcophagus, though.
posted by dhartung at 7:26 PM on May 27, 2007

What causes such disparity?

When the reactor blew, the pieces of the core went everywhere. When the firefighters came to put out the fire, they had to kick the pieces of graphite and control rods off the roof, so the fire would not spread. Later, they've sent soldiers to pick that shit off the ground all around the reactor with shovels and buckets. Anyway, to get to the point, some pieces flew further than others.
posted by c13 at 7:29 PM on May 27, 2007

-harlequin, I'm happy to call it both a hoax, and awesome. :-)

Delighted with your spirit of inclusiveness.

Wikipedia defines hoax: "A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. There is often some material object (e.g., snake oil) involved which is actually a forgery; however, it is possible to perpetrate a hoax by making only true statements using unfamiliar wording or context (see DHMO). Unlike a fraud or con (which is usually aimed at a single victim and are made for illicit financial or material gain), a hoax is often perpetrated as a practical joke, to cause embarrassment, or to provoke social change by making people aware of something. Many hoaxes are motivated by a desire to satirize or educate by exposing the credulity of the public and the media or the absurdity of the target."

The information on her site about Chernobyl itself doesn't seem to a hoax. I don't know the truth or details about how she made her trips there. Frankly, that part of the story didn't interest me so much but I can see now how a single, beautiful woman riding her motorcycle through a post-apocalyptic wasteland taking pictures is more alluring as a story and website than person on bus tour takes pictures, lol.

The information she collected and put up on her website about the place is not a hoax. The site was/is, imo, always informative: map and info about Roentgens, about the fauna there now, details about the locale, the atomic plant etc.
posted by nickyskye at 7:52 PM on May 27, 2007

This posting explains the deception from someone familiar with the area.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:46 PM on May 27, 2007

This posting explains the deception from someone familiar with the area.

Interestingly when I went to fill in a little info on Wikipedia, that person in Ukraine seems to be the only source I could turn up who discredits KiddOfSpeed. Very thorough, but still just one singular source. I chalked the whole thing up as an unverifiable mystery and turned my attention to other articles.
posted by chef_boyardee at 9:57 PM on May 27, 2007

(when I went to fill in a little info back in 2005, that is)
posted by chef_boyardee at 9:57 PM on May 27, 2007

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

--Sara Teasdale, "There Will Come Soft Rains"
posted by Afroblanco at 10:02 PM on May 27, 2007

Rhomboid and chef_boyardee, Thanks for the link and info. aww, If it's true, it's sad Elena staged images. So unnecessary really, when Chernobyl is such an authentically staggering story. It needs no extra spicing up. At all.

Still, Elena's site, her story-telling and images got me very interested in the whole Chernobyl saga. She created a kind of personal narrative nobody had done before and I haven't seen in the 21 years since Chernobyl happened.

If, in fact, there are untruths in her story/site, I so hope she is able to clear them up.
posted by nickyskye at 11:26 PM on May 27, 2007

Oh don't get me wrong, her pictures are still moving and compelling, and any good story requires a bit of exaggeration. The only thing that gets me is that she went back and removed/reworded/toned down some of the aspects of the original piece when confronted with this criticism -- a move perfectly within her rights -- rather than leaving it and just saying, "yes, it was a narrative, some parts were fictional." It's that miniscule bit of deception that I think bugged some people.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:49 PM on May 27, 2007

Rhomboid, Good points.
posted by nickyskye at 12:05 AM on May 28, 2007

A nice catalog of photos here.

It is a shame that the original narrative wasn't left to stand. It was a beautiful work, both in its imagination and ability to draw a story from in-situ photos.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 5:17 PM on May 29, 2007

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