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Chernobyl (Чернобыль)
Chornobyl (Чорнобиль)
City of district significance
Chernobyl's Old City Hall building
Chernobyl's Old City Hall building
Coat of arms of Chernobyl (Чернобыль)Chornobyl (Чорнобиль)
Coat of arms
Chernobyl is located in Kiev Oblast
Location of Chernobyl in Kiev Oblast
Country  Ukraine
Oblast Kiev Oblast
Raion Chernobyl Raion (1923–1988)
Ivankiv Raion (since 1988)
Founded 1193
City status 1941
 • Administration State Agency of Ukraine on the Exclusion Zone Management
Population (August 2015)
 • Total 550
Postal code 07270
Area code(s) +380 4493

Chernobyl or Chornobyl (IPA ; Ukrainian: Чорнобиль, pronounced ; Russian: Чернобыль, pronounced , Polish: Czarnobyl pronounced , ) is a city in the restricted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone situated in Ivankiv Raion of northern Kiev Oblast, Ukraine near the border with Belarus. The city was the administrative center of Chernobyl Raion (district) from 1923 until it was disestablished in 1988.

The city was evacuated in 1986 due to the Chernobyl disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located 14.5 kilometres (9.0 mi) north-northwest, the most disastrous single nuclear event in history. The power plant was within Chernobyl Raion, but the city was not the residence of the power plant workers. When the power plant was under construction, Pripyat, a city larger and closer to the power plant, had been built as home for the power plant workers.

After the accident the Chernobyl Raion administration was transferred to the neighboring Ivankiv Raion. Though the city today is mostly a ghost town, a small number of people reside in houses marked with signs stating that the "Owner of this house lives here".[1] Workers on watch and administrative personnel of the Zone of Alienation are stationed in the city on a long-term basis. Before its evacuation, the city had about 14,000 residents.[2] The city of Slavutych was built specifically for the evacuated population of Chernobyl.


  • History 1
    • Name origin 1.1
    • Early history 1.2
    • Recent history 1.3
  • Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster 2
    • Chernobyl city after the disaster 2.1
    • Chernobylite 2.2
  • Personalities 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Name origin

The city's name is the same as a local Ukrainian name for Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort or common wormwood, which is чорнобиль or "chornobyl").[3] An alternative etymology holds that it is a combination of the words chornyi (чорний, black) and byllia (билля, grass blades or stalks), hence it would literally mean black grass or black stalks.

Early history

Chernobyl area as seen from the Russian space station Mir in 1997

Originally part of the land of Kievan Rus Chernobyl first appeared in a charter of 1193, described as a hunting-lodge of Knyaz Rostislavich.[4][5] It was a crown village of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century. The village was granted as a fiefdom to Filon Kmita, a captain of the royal cavalry, in 1566. The province containing Chernobyl was transferred to the Kingdom of Poland in 1569, and then annexed by the Russian Empire in 1793.[6] Prior to the 20th century, Chernobyl was inhabited by Ukrainian and some Polish peasants, and a relatively large number of Jews.

Chernobyl had a rich religious history. The Jews were brought by Filon Kmita, during the Polish campaign of colonization. The traditionally Christian Eastern Orthodox Ukrainian peasantry of the district was largely forced, by Poland, to convert to the Greek Catholic Uniate religion after 1596. Yet the vast majority returned to Eastern Orthodoxy after the Partitions of Poland.

The Dominican church and monastery were founded in 1626 by Lukasz Sapieha, at the height of the Counter-reformation. There was a group of Old Catholics, who opposed the decrees of the Council of Trent. The Dominican monastery was sequestrated in 1832, following the failed Polish November Uprising, and the church of the Old Catholics was disbanded in 1852.[4]

In the second half of the 18th century, Chernobyl became one of the major centers of Hasidic Judaism. The Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty had been founded by Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky. The Jewish population suffered greatly from pogroms in October 1905 and in March–April 1919, when many Jews were killed and others were robbed, at the instigation of the Russian nationalist Black Hundreds. In 1920, the Twersky dynasty left Chernobyl, and it ceased to exist as a Hasidic centre.

Recent history

Since the 1880s, Chernobyl has seen many changes of fortune. In 1898 Chernobyl had a population of 10,800, including 7,200 Jews. In World War I the village was occupied, and in the ensuing Civil War, Chernobyl was fought over by Bolsheviks and Ukrainians. In the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–20, it was taken first by the Polish Army and then by cavalry of the Red Army. From 1921, it was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR.[4]

During the period 1929–33, Chernobyl suffered greatly from mass killings during Stalin's collectivization campaign, and in the Holodomor (famine) that followed. The Polish community of Chernobyl was deported to Kazakhstan in 1936 during the Frontier Clearances. One Canadian writer claims that when the Nazis came, in the fall of 1941, 52 corpses of recently murdered people, slightly covered with earth, were found in the prison yard. These corpses had their hands tied at the back with wire; some had their backs flayed, others had gouged eyes or nails driven into their heels; still others had their noses, ears, tongues and even genitals cut away. Instruments of torture which the communists used were found in the dungeon of the prison. Many of the tortured people were identified because they were mostly farmers from the local collectives who had been arrested by the NKVD for some unknown reason.[7] During World War II, Chernobyl was occupied by the German Army from 25 August 1941 to 17 November 1943. The Jewish community was murdered during the Nazi occupation of 1941–44.[4] Twenty years later, the area was chosen as the site of the first nuclear power station on Ukrainian soil.

The Duga-3 over-the-horizon radar array several miles out of Chernobyl was the origin of the infamous Russian Woodpecker, designed as part of Russia's anti-ballistic missile early warning radar network.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chernobyl remained part of Ukraine, now an independent nation.

Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster

A grocery store in Chernobyl. The lettering on the window reads "Café Bar".

On 26 April 1986, Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, exploded. The explosion took place at 1:23am. Two workers were killed instantly. 40 hours later, the residents of Pripyat were ordered to evacuate, and most never returned; by that time, many of the residents had suffered varying degrees of radiation poisoning.

In 2003, the United Nations Development Programme launched a project called the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme (CRDP) for the recovery of the affected areas.[8] The program launched its activities based on the Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident report recommendations and was initiated in February 2002. The main goal of the CRDP's activities is supporting the Government of Ukraine to mitigate long-term social, economic, and ecological consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, among others. CRDP works in the four most Chernobyl-affected areas in Ukraine: Kiev Oblast, Zhytomyrska Oblast, partially Kiev, Chernihivska Oblast, and Rivne Oblast.

Chernobyl city after the disaster

Chernobyl was evacuated soon after the disaster. The base of operations for the administration and monitoring of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was moved from Pripyat to Chernobyl. Chernobyl currently contains offices for the State Agency of Ukraine on the Exclusion Zone Management and accommodation for visitors. Apartment blocks have been re-purposed as accommodation for employees of the State Agency. Because of regulations implemented to limit exposure, workers in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are limited in the number of days per week or weeks per month they stay in Chernobyl. Many types of animals live there now and the city has become overgrown. In fact, according to a census that was done over a long period of time, it is estimated that more mammals live there now than before the disaster.[9]


Chernobylite is the name cited by two media sources[10][11] for highly radioactive, unusual and potentially novel crystalline formations found at the Chernobyl power plant after the meltdown. These formations were found in the basement below Reactor No. 4 during an investigation into missing reactor fuel.[12]


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ [#chornobyl Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris L.)], by Gernot Katzer, 4 July 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  5. ^ Chernobyl ancient history and maps.
  6. ^ Davies, Norman (1995) "Chernobyl", , No. 1The Sarmatian Review, vol. 15.
  7. ^ F. Fedorenko, My Testimony, in The Black Deeds of the Kremlin: A White Book, Ukrainian Association of Victims of Russian Communist Terror, Toronto, 1953, pp. 97-98
  8. ^ CRDP: Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme (United Nations Development Program)
  9. ^ "Wild mammals 'have returned' to Chernobyl" (BBC News - Science & Environment)
  10. ^ BBC Special Report: 1997: Containing Chernobyl?
  11. ^ Suicide Mission to Chernobyl: NOVA, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)1991, 60mins
  12. ^ excerpt

External links

  • United Nations Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme See the actions of the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme towards Chernobyl-affected area and its population.
  • Chernobyl and Pripyat 22 years later
  • Chornobyl city information at the Verkhovna Rada
  • – Photographs of Chernobyl
  • EU To Extend Checks On Food From Chernobyl Area
  • History of Jewish Community in Chernobyl
  • 25 years of satellite imagery over Chernobyl 404
  • Photographs of Chernobyl 2015

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