Under a Nuclear Cloud
July 30, 2009 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Under a Nuclear Cloud (Reportage by Gettyimages) The results of using villagers as human guinea pigs in "preparing" for nuclear war.
posted by spock (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
What is wrong with us?
posted by Xoebe at 2:33 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

The reasons behind such developments: deplorable
The art resulting from such developments: beautiful
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:41 PM on July 30, 2009

Kazakhstan inherited 1400 warheads from the Soviet Union. It transferred them all to Russia by 1995* and is now a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 2006 Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan established a nuclear weapons free zone in Central Asia [pdf]. Although understandably opposed to nuclear weapons, Kazakhstan positions itself as a major source of uranium and nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes.

I wish more countries would take a page from South Africa, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine, which have all voluntarily given up nuclear weapons.

* Since 1995, Russia's active nuclear warhead stockpile has been cut by roughly two thirds, from ~15,000 to ~5,000. Most if not all of the warheads from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine were indeed dismantled or at least disabled, not merely moved.
posted by jedicus at 2:44 PM on July 30, 2009

Whenever there is some post here about some random photogs fancy new blog, it should be weighed against these photos. They are simply the best collection of photos I've ever seen. Amazing emotion, perfect technical skill, and a true sens of vision. Thanks for posting this.
posted by lattiboy at 3:00 PM on July 30, 2009

These are devastating, mind searing, and brilliant.
posted by dejah420 at 3:07 PM on July 30, 2009

posted by maxwelton at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

We fuckin' suck.
posted by gman at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

This truly made me feel horrible.
posted by chugg at 3:35 PM on July 30, 2009

The art resulting from such developments: beautiful
The flash UI they are imprisoned behind: atrocious
posted by Rhomboid at 3:46 PM on July 30, 2009 [12 favorites]

Yeah, that Flash interface is appalling.

Somehow it suits the subject, since these photographs embody the word "appalling."

I quit the species.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:00 PM on July 30, 2009

These pictures in this photoessay are affecting- heartbreaking, really- but I find myself disagreeing with the underlying premise. While there are some epidemiologically well-established consequences of atomic bomb testing in Kazakhstan- I can find studies suggesting increased thyroid nodules and possibly (though not very convincingly due to low study power) an increased rate of leukemias to those exposed to high doses of radiation- the people profiled here seem too far temporally separated from the period of peak exposure for their birth defects and disabilities to be reasonably ascribed to aftereffects of radiation.

Nonetheless, this is a testament to the maddening difficulties that are present in caring for disabled people in a poor country. It's no picnic in a developed nation either, but the rudimentary nature of social support and medical care available in poorer countries must make life a tremendous ordeal for the disabled and their caregivers. The saddest, for me, was the child with severe hydrocephalus; in the first world this condition would likely have been detected and treated before reaching the point of physical or intellectual disability.
posted by monocyte at 4:15 PM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Here's a nice website that Dinara Sagatova created for her MA at Ohio U. Semipalatinsk Polygon: a Nuclear Test Site provides some more info about the history and geography of the polygon, some more haunting photos, and some short audio clips.
posted by Kabanos at 4:17 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Soviet Russia ... fuck it, this is too depressing.
posted by rigby51 at 5:03 PM on July 30, 2009

These photos are really fantastic. He has some on flickr and on his web site.
posted by snofoam at 5:04 PM on July 30, 2009

Jesus. What heartbreak. Those poor mothers.
posted by atchafalaya at 5:25 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I seriously thought I'd been desensitized so much I could look at anything online, but I could only get a third of the way through.

posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:16 PM on July 30, 2009

I've been paging through Michael Light's excellent 100 Suns (photos of the various US above-ground tests) lately and this I think will cause me to fail to finish it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:24 PM on July 30, 2009

Thanks spock for the FPP, and thanks Kabanos for the Semipalatinsk Polygon link.

But, my god, how is it that someone can spend so much time putting together such a fabulous collection of information and yet still do page navigation so badly?
posted by intermod at 8:36 PM on July 30, 2009

Oh, and seconding 100 Suns. Unreal.
posted by intermod at 8:37 PM on July 30, 2009

A map of nuclear testing sites in Kazakhstan. The main location, Semipalatinsk.

Gee, I feel real rage looking at those photographs. How evil were the malignant power nutjobs who caused such pain in others' lives. And nuclear evil is still going on there! Just recently, Kazakh Police Quash Nuclear Protest. I wonder who imports from that region and if the items are radioactive?

Then I was angry with Sascha Baron Cohen for making a mockery of anybody from Kazakhstan, when the people there really don't need that (although I think he did the world good with Borat's mischief).

Some 1.7 million people are believed to have health problems caused by exposure to radiation, even though above-ground blasts were halted in 1962 and underground testing in 1989.

The testing began in 1949 at a site known as Polygon and continued until 1989. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, there were 456 tests, including 116 nuclear bombs tested above ground. The Polygon site officially closed on August 29, 1991 -- 16 years ago this week.
posted by nickyskye at 9:21 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think "quitting the species" or "fuck it this is too depressing" are both pretty weak cop outs. This isn't some natural progression of the species, or just some unavoidable eventuality of progress. There are individuals and specific governments to blame and no matter how unsavory one finds the imagery of this brutality, it should be seen and perpetrators must atone.
I have no idea how to go about this of course, but fuck man, this pisses me off.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 11:47 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Almost brought me to tears as I sit here at my desk
posted by treyka at 12:23 AM on July 31, 2009

monocyte makes a very good point - I've worked with kids with disabilites, and met kids who are like every single one of those (yes, including hydrocephalus; occasionally the shunts just don't work). The comments here about 'devastating' and the like make me feel uncomfortable; yes, caring for a child with a disability can be bloody hard, extra hard if you're living in poverty. But kids and adults like these live all around you, in your city, in your community. I'm worried this sort of thing dissolves into a nuclear freakshow, without even any evidence that there is a causal connection.

People who are brought to tears - go out and volunteer in your community and meet people like this. Perhaps when you meet them you can view them as people, not sob stories.

Note: I am not in favour of nuclear testing or unnecessary radiation exposure, I am not suggesting that having a disability can't make your life difficult, I am not suggesting that radiation exposure is not associated with congenital abnormalities. But the liklihood is that a good proportion of these individuals have disabilities entirely unrelated to radiation exposure, and as such these pictures are exploitative and misleading.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:41 AM on July 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

Coobeastie, I strongly disagree with you that a "good proportion of these individuals have disabilities entirely unrelated to radiation exposure."

Almost one-quarter of all the human-caused nuclear explosions ever to take place were carried out by Soviet researchers in Kazakhstan.

The effects of radiation exposure in Kazakhstan are very widespread, the catastrophic results of 40 years of testing.

Birth defect rates are ten times those of Europe, America and Japan, he said. Staggering death and disease rates are affecting the population immune systems, leukemia, anemia, cancer - the list of horrors goes on. Water and food sources are contaminated, and the death rate from disease is triple that in other parts of the former Soviet Union.

In this CNN video, one doctor in Kazakhstan calls it "a plague of birth defects". The journalist states that "almost every family in [the] village, 20 miles from the old test site, is affected".
posted by nickyskye at 6:39 AM on July 31, 2009

nickyskye I'm somewhat late to reply to you. I am not saying the nuclear issue is not a factor; but Khazakstan is massively polluted from other sources (the Aral sea being a particular disaster area), and any study of birth defects would have to take into account multifactoral insults to the developing fetus. There are also clear relationships between poverty and birth defects.

I stand by my comments; this takes the nuclear issue as a given without any epidemiological evidence. So, yes, there will be a causal relationship for some of these. But without further information it's at least as likely that the majority of these are not nuclear-related (note that Tajikistan, without nuclear tests but similarly awful pollution also has very high birth defect levels).
posted by Coobeastie at 6:23 AM on August 3, 2009

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