Semipalatinsk Polygon
Nuclear Test Site

Semipalatinsk Polygon

Semipalatinsk Test Site or also known as a Polygon was one of the main nuclear testing locations for the Soviet Union between 1949 and 1989. It is located in the deserted area in the steppe of the eastern of Kazakhstan next to the Semipalatinsk (today Semei city) in the east, south of the valley of the Irtysh River.  

Within its existence, there were exploded 460 nuclear bombs while about 200,000 villagers living within 45km of the test site, the ‘Polygon’, were exposed to high levels of radiation. By that time the area was extremely controlled and only high-ranking officials of the politburo knew about what was happening in the site. No one except those few with clearance was allowed to enter or leave these areas. When the Cold War ended, most of these sites were destroyed, and the secrets opened up to the public. Since the majority of the area was strategical military locations or sensitive mining areas, some of these places truly hid unimaginable secrets as the formerly closed city of Semipalatinsk. 

The Soviet Union managed these nuclear tests without notice to the health effects on the 200,000 residents of the Semipalatinsk area, who weren’t evacuated or warned during the real explosions. Residents soon became aware about the tests, and observed health problems soon after the first tests. Consequently the cancer rates in the Polygon area immediately increased after ta couple of years following the first tests as well as the raised the number of genetic defected children who have been born there. Unfortunately due to the strict Soviet rules they were not allowed to leave the city and there was nothing that residents could do. 

Eventually, in 1989, an anti-nuclear movement name “Nevada Semipalatinsk“ was formed, that forced the weak and breaking Soviet Union to avoid from further nuclear tests and to close the site. Following the independence of Kazakhstan, the closed city status was abolished. Since 1991 thee site has been investigated by many scientists from around the world, delivering it the best researched nuclear test site in the world. Today, it is the only nuclear test site in the world that is open to tourists. By visiting you will learn more nuclear battle, the dangers of radiation, and of course the history of the Cold War. You need to get a permit to get in or a tour guide. Normally the tour includes the site, museum as well as the influenced area nearby. 


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