Chernobyl — looting, tourism and stalkers
Chernobyl — looting, tourism and stalkers

Systematic measures aimed at eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident led to the fact that the level of radiation pollution in the Chernobyl zone began to decrease at the end of the 90s of the last century.

On the one hand, this led to the popularization of tourist travel around the 30 km zone, but, on the other hand, there are massive illegal raids of stalkers. What drives these people, full of adventurism, risk and an irrepressible desire to be with the Chernobyl Zone “on a first-name”.

It is definitely known that the first signals of illegal tourists staying in the exclusion zone began to appear after looters visited it. The latter visited Pripyat and nearby settlements much earlier, they were not stopped by the radiation level still held high in the late 80-s and early 90-s, nothing human: all the valuables left by people in their apartments and houses during the evacuation period were removed and sold in the dirtiest way.

Looting is the mentality of people with a complete lack of morality. Alas, the Chernobyl tragedy, which left in memory the inhuman tortures that the liquidators were dying of, did not stop people from pillage and plunder. Radiation did not stop lovers of easy money, because Pripyat is a tidbit, full of suitable items and things, consumer goods.

Even the decision of the government commission regarding the systemic disposal of things from apartments and institutions did not stop the looters – metal hunters began to massively cut off heating systems, cable, antennas, precious metal, and so on. After disposal, large-sized furniture remained in the apartments: it is still taken away a little by a little.

In 2010, it was decided at the official level to open the Zone for those who wanted, after conducting radiological studies and forming a cartogram, identifying safe routes for visitors to the Zone. These studies showed that you can be without harm to health in a 30 km zone no more than 5 days, and in 10 km — no more than a day.

At the same time, the rules for visiting the Zone were approved, including foreign citizens and international delegations. 2011 is considered to be the starting point when Ukraine officially opened access to the Chernobyl zone for tourists, scientists, experts, journalists, international control and the monitoring mission.

How to get to Chernobyl today

There is a checkpoint on its territory today. It provides for special permissions to travel around the Zone, and for tourists groups whose accompaniment is provided by a guide, some objects are allowed to be videotaped or photographed.

There are requirements for clothing — it should be maximally closed. It is allowed to be only in coveralls at some facilities, a limited amount of time and with limited freedom of action:

  • no smoking,
  • do not eat,
  • do not touch structures and plants,
  • do not drink water from ground sources.

Tourist routes are agreed and approved in advance, so any departures are not permissible. Participants of excursion groups pass dosimetric control when leaving the zone. However, rarely there are times when personal items, shoes and outerwear are not subject to decontamination, in which case they are confiscated. This is associated with a health risk, therefore, all those who want to visit the Zone sign the relevant documents in advance. 

Today there are two programs of visiting the Chernobyl nuclear power station for tourists – a review and a basic one. A view of the so-called “bridge of death and the red forest” opens at the entrance. Both routes are full of extreme viewing reviews, the impressions of which remain for life.

According to the management of the administration of the Zone, all visitors can be divided into several groups. The first is the most massive. It includes foreign experts visiting this territory in order to conduct scientific research together with Ukrainian scientists.

The second group consists of domestic and international journalists, the third includes former local residents of the resettled territories who visit the graves of their nearest and dearest, and the last includes those whom the Zone attracts, as a place of a catastrophe of a planetary scale – tourists and stalkers.

Illegals in Chernobyl

Every year there become more and more people penetrating the exclusion zone, bypassing the checkpoints, the so-called – stalkers. Such thrill-seekers penetrate the zone, both alone and in groups. They independently choose routes for themselves, armed only with dosimeters and often neglect the basic safety rules: they do not use elementary respiratory protective equipment at objects hazardous to human health.

There have been cases when such extremists were detained, and it was found edged and firearms upon inspection. In addition to illegal immigrants, looters and poachers continue to penetrate through the cliffs in the barbed wire. The first ones are looking for easy prey, while the others are entering the forest in search of mushrooms and berries. Every day about 5-7 stalkers are detained in the Zone.

Some call themselves amateur gamblers and, as a rule, do not go deep into the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, lingering only in places of resettlement, others are ideological missionaries who prefer a long schedule of visits. Not infrequently, they, observing the requirements of special anti-radiation equipment, penetrate into the 10 km zone. For such people, the main source of information is the Internet.

The network has created many communities on the platform of which young stalkers exchange information, share experiences of hiking in the Zone, confirming their video and photo reports. The stalkers also include former liquidators of the Chernobyl accident and former residents of Pripyat, who know the territory well, who today, being in the status of guides, accompany tourist excursions to the Chernobyl zone.

The Law on visiting the Chernobyl zone

The exclusion zone was surrounded by barbed wire immediately after the accident. Local residents were resettled, entrance was strictly forbidden for outsiders, and data on radiation pollution of this territory were classified. A ban was imposed on the export of building materials, the collection of berries, mushrooms and fruits from trees, fishing.

The violators were fined, but especially it stopped few people. Over time, cases of unauthorized settlement in the Zone began to increase, the sale of food products and the removal of things and household items began to have a mass character. This forced the country’s leadership to take the necessary measures to tighten legislative requirements governing the safety of the exclusion zone.

Since 2007, violation of the law in the zone of radiation safety regime entails the imposition of a criminal liability, which is most often neglected by fans of the illegal collection of radioactive contaminated metal, wood and building materials.

Superstition or Reality: Stalkers

It is said that stalkers are superstitious people, they believe in signs better than radiation, and that, they say, if you do not follow a certain ritual, then the Zone can deal with violators very cruelly. There are unwritten laws that stalkers honor as “The Lord’s Prayer”. For some, illegal penetration is becoming the norm, circumventing laws: they live on the verge of risk, balancing between the rule of law and morality.

We can endlessly condemn such people, but it is much more productive to create conditions every year in order to maximize the stay in the Exclusion Zone of all who aspire to it, while guaranteeing complete security. Tourism, hobby excursions, scientific expeditions, technical colleges, scientific and practical conferences – there are many mechanisms to make a scientific and tourist Mecca in the Zone, a kind of Klondike for any form of human activity.

Then, neither looters nor stalkers will simply have nothing to do there, their resource will spontaneously run out as unnecessary. This is the task of those who today, within the framework of the Chernobyl radiation-ecological biosphere reserve, are engaged in the popularization of the Exclusion Zone, as an object of the scientific, historical and moral heritage of mankind.