8 October 2016

Semipalatinsk in pictures

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Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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Men, women, and children collect wild strawberries on the Semipalatinsk test site. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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A faded radiation warning sign near a nuclear crater. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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A seasonal fire burning through the Semipalatinsk territory. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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Local residents putting out a grass fire at Semipalatinsk. They use sheep-skins attached to long poles to snuff out the flames. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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A lake inside a crater formed after an underground nuclear explosion. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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Cows, horses, goats, and sheep grazing on the Semipalatinsk pastures. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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The train tracks leading out of Kurchatov city, the Soviet-era nuclear weapons project administrative center. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.

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Livestock returning from the Semipalatinsk pastures to Koyan. Photo copyright Magdalena Stawkowski.
Slide 1 of 9

Once upon a time in the Cold War, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan was the main nuclear weapons testing ground for the Soviet Union. Between 1949 and 1989, hundreds of nuclear tests were conducted there. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has been praised for closing Semipalatinsk and for giving up its nuclear weapons. But if Kazakhstan's leaders have taken positive steps on non-proliferation and nuclear safety issues, they have been less successful at securing the 7,000 square miles of the Semipalatinsk site itself. Kazakhstan’s leadership has done little to clean up the site, and, as shown in this photo essay, thousands of people still live in and around the atomic test site, where residual radioactivity and environmental damage are as normal a part of life as picking strawberries or pasturing cattle. Above, some residents of the small village of Koyan (a pseudonym) walk inside a nuclear crater.

Men, women, and children collect wild strawberries on the Semipalatinsk test site.

A faded radiation warning sign near a nuclear crater.

A seasonal fire burning through the Semipalatinsk territory.

Local residents putting out a grass fire at Semipalatinsk. They use sheep-skins attached to long poles to snuff out the flames.

A lake inside a crater formed after an underground nuclear explosion.

Cows, horses, goats, and sheep grazing on the Semipalatinsk pastures.

The train tracks leading out of Kurchatov city, the Soviet-era nuclear weapons project administrative center.

Livestock returning from the Semipalatinsk pastures to Koyan.

Photo credit: All photos copyright Magdalena Stawkowski