Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

It’s mildly possible you’ll get quite a few updates about Ukraine or Chernobyl, not because of a recent drama show but because I visited Kyiv and Chernobyl. I’ve taken a lot of photos and notes but here is another dive into some interesting history around there.

The Chernobyl Disaster (1986) is still a major talking point even this far on, maybe I should do a deeper dive into it all, but that’s something you write books on, and I have read a few. I did Soviet history so you probably notice I pick up these things here and there in my blogs, it is actually very tempting to go down these rabbit holes more and more but there is a whole world for us to look into and so I may point some here and there but forgive me if that does happen. It is important as a point in modern history, when reactor 4 exploded it caused international concerns and the subject looks to have been added to our school curriculum (I believe).

The actual name of the, now decommissioned, nuclear power plant is V I Lenin Nuclear Power Station (чернобыльская АЕС ИМ. В.И.Ленина) and it had suffered an incident before in 1981, a partial core meltdown had occurred in Reactor 1 but was operational again within a few months and was not revealed until several years later.

At this stage both Kopachi and Poliske were normal functioning areas, the incident in 1986 left both of them abandoned, Kopachi is now abandoned entirely and Poliske has been taken from the registry but there are around 20 known settlers there.

Kopachi (Колачи/Колачi) was a village, located just south-west of the Pripyat River Basin, after it was evacuated in 1986 the authorities had houses torn down and buried as an experiment. The village was the only one that suffered from his fate and now lonely two brick buildings, a series of mounds and some trees are the original remnants of the place.

Each mound has a sign which has the international symbol for radiation on it, it points to the fact there is a house beneath it. The kindergarten and one other building is still there and the local soil is contaminated with plutonium, strontium-90 and caesium-137.

Kopachi’s geography lies within the Kyiv reg, in ion, Ivankiv district and is 4km away from Chernobyl. It’s first mention as a village appears to have been in 1685, in 1886 it was listed with 774 orthodox residents and 92 Jews as its Parish. In 1900 the owner of the village, Sergey Chelytshev listed 334 inhabitants, there were 56 households and a church made from wood named Great Martyr Paraskeva which burnt down in 1927, the church in the name of the Great Martyr Paraskei, was described as dilapidated and built in 1742 and that prior churches stood higher on Kariplouka and the church served 65 tithes. The villages under the Kopachevsky parish were made up of Nagoretsy, Semihody, Krivaya Gora and Starosel’ye.

In 1927, Father Peter , the rector, was arrested and taken off to Kyiv, his fate was not reacted in anything I could find. The church was ravaged, the Holy icons and church plates were burnt in the churchyard and as this happened the anecdote states that the residents there wept. Before the disaster it was a well established village with around 114 inhabitants and the residents were relocated to Lehnvika, Boryshiv district.

If ( like me) you played Stalker, Call of Pripyat, you can go to their interpretation of the village on the level “Neighbourhood of Jupiter”, the area is known to have zombies, the hills and old buildings also emit a lot of radiation.

Poliske or Polesskoye (Поліське / Полесское) is part of the Kyiv oblast region and can be found listed in the Exclusion Zone area. The areas has about 20 samosely, the region has about 197 people, they are returning people to the area of those considered self-settlers. Samosely are informally allowed to stay there.

I’m going to put down the number of people as a sub-paragraph because its really not that identifiable. April 2013 saw an estimate of illegal settlers being anything from 200-2000. Refugees, re-settlers and other migrations most likely mean no true number could be stated. One official birth is known, 25th August 1999 a 46 year-old woman called Lydia Sovenko gave birth to Maria Sovenko, Maria lived in Chernobyl with her parents until 2006 and goes back to the area at the weekend and visits her mother there.

So back to Poliske – it was originally called Khabnaye or Khabne’, it was renamed Kaganovichi Pervye/ Kahanovychi Pershi in 1934. It was renamed to Poliske in 1957. Poliske was founded in the 15th Century, the home of a Polish family, the Howatt’s from 1850 to 1918. It was known for it’s weaving and textile industry, and the area got official status as a city in 1938. The population dwindled after the disaster and in 1999 the remaining population was evacuated, as of 2005 around 1,000 people remained and were mostly senior citizens.

A couple of notable people are mentioned from the place, Iser Kuperman was born there in 1922 and he was the seven-times world champion of draughts. Lazar Kaganovich, one of the leaders of the Soviet Union, was born there in 1893. He was a Soviet politician and was known to have helped Stalin seize power. He died in 1991 and in 1987 an American journalist (Stuart Kahan) published “The Wolf of the Kremlin” which was a biography about Kaganovich. It is worth another side not here that some contact the books validity.

So have you been? Did you visit the area on a tour OR were you once a resident with a story to share?

Sources:

Pohilevich Lawrence Ivanovich – Ukrainian ethnographer, ‘Tales of populated areas of the Kiev province’;

Chernobylpeople.ucoz.ua ;

forgottenisland.net ;

wikipedia ;

earthtimes.org ;

Stuart Kahan, The Wolf of the Kremlin ;

Chernobyl & Nuclear Power in the USSR – David R Marples; Dazv.gov.ua – visiting the zone (English version);

Stalker game – GSC Game World.

SoloEast Travel and going on the tour.

The formulated list of the settlements that were taken from the Exclusion zone and where people were resettled too (Ukraine forum on the subject).

 

https://silentthrill.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/duga-radio/

If you want my original notes on the matter here they are but I am now going to update a little from the fact that in August (2019) I was lucky enough to get to visit the place directly.

If I get my notes in order properly I believe I will try and do a full write up of the day but I am just updating on the Duga because it was one of the big highlights. The Дугá or Duga-2 (or Chernobyl 2 or Russian Woodpecker) is SO big I cannot simply point out it was large… it is enormous and absolutely wonderful to have seen up close, I don’t know how long it will be standing there because you can see the signs of deterioration all over it but whilst it is there and possible to visit I am glad that people can.

So what else did I learn to add to the original information? Well that the structure likely cost more than putting all four of the reactors online at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself.

That the things all over it (pictured below) are known as vibrators, and when the wind did kick up a bit they sort of hummed very slightly. I have pretty good hearing and the sensation of being there and trying to listen was part of the atmosphere.

DugaVibrator.png

Workers would have been able to access the higher parts of the structure by elevator, I don’t think I would want to be on top of that thing on a windy or rainy day. I can’t be sure about health and safety in the former Soviet Union era but I can assure you that I’d be strapping myself to anything I could if I was working up there! I was once subject to a grim report about a death in the North Sea when a rigger failed to do it and my imagination took me straight back to that moment and I shuddered…

DugaElevator.png

There were access ladders originally still on the structure but thanks to irresponsible people climbing up they have been removed. They are on the floor as you can see behind the above photo to stop climbers having any form of easy access. I will say I can imagine people still do try but they clearly don’t think of dropping off the mortal coil if they do as just being near it was enough and I am not even afraid of heights as a general rule.

DugaLadders.png

When the wind gets it the whole thing shudders and shakes, you can hear it move and it’s both wonderful and a little jolting at the same time. The sand around the area might well be covering up the radiation underneath and giving additional support to the thing but if it fell I can’t imagine you would get any time to outrun it… You can see it from so far away even with the forest around it and you can hear it humming due to its size, even without power. I commented on my original post about the fact it would interfere with local radio and now I can understand why, how do you even hide that thing from anyone either?

Well they did have that conversation on the ground in the Ukraine and Moscow when Chernobyl’s nuclear incident happened. It was a secret military installation and they knew that officials coming from outside the Soviet Union may well notice it, did they risk driving people through to the zone and set off the geiger counters and the reality of it OR did they fly them over and pray they didn’t notice? Well in the end officials were flown over, the Chernobyl incident was simply more of a pressing matter than the giant station nearby.

There has been a death at the site in more recent years, in November 2017 (a Facebook post on Geostalkers claim it to have been 27th) a 33 year old man and a father of three died when he fell from the structure. The man was Dmitry Shkinder and he came over to the area from neighbouring country, Belarus. (Belarus is also subjected to having an exclusion zone from the 1986 incident and I shall try to do more on that at some point if I can). It was a cold, wet and windyday and he climbed up 15 foot before falling and meeting his end. “Stalkers” and thrill-seekers are being told to stop going on to the grounds, that stealing scrap metal for recycling is dangerous not to mention the haul may well be radioactive!

“That object has seen no maintenance for three decades. Its rusty, some ladders are loose. On that day it was really wet and cold and there was thick fog,” his friend Roman, who was with Dmitry when he died, told a Belarusian TV station. (Rt.Com)

I absolutely loved this place and visiting. I found it a genuine pleasure to be there and see it for myself and I am glad I was so lucky to get to see it.

I went with SoloEast Travel and they were fantastic. I shall hopefully get to write more about my trip in between my other blogs, and if this interested you I am sure there are plenty of other little dives about my posts you can enjoy.

Here are some links to enjoy too:

http://chornobyl.in.ua/en/chernobyl-2-2.html

https://goo.gl/maps/VqK4wBnCnvCuBwce8

And my video of what I managed to capture!

The castle is an hours drive from Lviv, Ukraine, and is closed at present but it is due to be opened as a museum and will no doubt make a great tourist spot.

It was built in 1625-1640 for the elite and royal families and has been a functioning residence for many centuries but sadly is left in a poor state now. It is in the shape of a square with five pentagonal bastions on the corners and has seen modifications to its designed. It was proven to be a well functioning fortress on more than one occasion and during WWI was captured by the Russians, they looted the precious items but did not destroy the building.

In 1939 Prince Sangusko packed up most of the valuables and went to Romania, anticipating another bout of looting and interior destruction. After WW2 the castle was used as a TB Sanatorium. In February 1956 the castle was nearly burnt down completely. The fire that broke out lasted three weeks, only the walls remained and an extreme bill of $12 million worth of damages. In 1997 it was purchased by the Lviv gallery of painting and opened as a museum.

When the Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union the castle was to be used as a presidential residence but it never came to pass. Now the Lviv gallery of arts, and lack of funds, have slowed down their renovations with plans to give it a more historical look on a future project.

There is a ghostly take attached to Pidhirsti Castle, Waclaw Rzewusky dwelled there from 1720-1779 and the rumour is that he murdered his wife by burying her alive in the walls of the castle. This was due to jealously and may be the woman in white seen by many witnesses.

Ghost Hunters International went to look into the rumours at the castle. Ukranian TV show Psychic Challenge also went there, they concluded it was haunted. GHI stated that they were confident that ghosts resided pretty much throughout the place.

The earliest guess for the beginnings of the catacombs in the Ukraine is about the 1600’s. It could be earlier than that but it’s hard to date back as they were also widened later on. They became the giant labyrinth of today when in the early 1800’s the limestone was used from them to build much of the city.

The myriad of tunnels led to it being popular for hideouts, rebels and criminals could use them and during WWII they Soviets were forced out, but were able to leave Soviet-organised Ukranian’s hidden down there. They were able to listen in to the Nazi forces above and set up a situation where they managed to blow up German facilities. It wasn’t all good news as malaria and malnutrition affected those men and women.

The Facist German and Romanians chose random exits, sealing them off and and dropping poisonous gasses down them. When the war was over the criminals claimed the tunnels and created new ones of their own. In 1961 a group was formed, they wanted to map and document the geography and history of the place.

It is common for groups of explorers to go into the area, occasionally people do go missing and if they are in the area the explorers will rally to help. A number of children have been rescued this way but sadly it hasn’t always turned out positive. Old weapon caches and grenades are sometimes found, every five years or so a body is found and on rare occasions they have been naturally mummified there too. Many are old bodies but sometimes more recent accidents have turned up a corpse as well.

A sad example of this occurred 15th January 2005, the local teens were partying in the tunnels. A girl called Masha was separated and lost during the drunken celebrations. For 3 days she walked around in the pitch black and freezing conditions, where she then expired due to dehydration. It was two years later the police located her body and could retrieve it.

There is an official area that can be visited and perhaps given the warnings of lost people and random body finds, I’d recommend going there before being too bold.

Odessa kat 01.jpg
By Полищук Денис Анатольевич – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link

 

So its that time! Time to look at communication, specifically an old over-the-horizon radar system called the Duga from the former Soviet Union (Russia/Ukraine for the purposes of this article.) Over The Horizon (OTH) or Beyond The Horizon (BTH) are radar systems for long range use. Most were used in the 1950’s and 1960’s because they were early warning systems, just think about the Cold War and the idea of it being a necessity; the ones I am looking at here are the Duga system but they were used all over the world and still are, if modern reports online are correct. I am no expert so correct me where you can if I get things wrong.

The system operated from July 1976 up until December 1989, there were two deployed in Chernobyl and Chernihiv. Chernobyl is in the Ukraine and Chernihiv is Siberian. They were powerful and appeared without warning, sounding like a repetitive tapping on 10Hz, they became nicknamed by the listeners as the Russian Woodpecker.

They seemed to pop up pretty randomly and could interrupt legitimate broadcasting and all variations of stations. Complaints were sent in about them but I can’t imagine it being easy to prevent them. Some of the radio and television users began including blockers in the circuit to try and filter out interruption.

The first type of Duga was built in the Ukraine and did successfully detect rocket launchers from 2,500 kilometres. With its success they worked on the larger project. The first signal was picked up in 1976 and amatuer radio users gave it the name woodpecker, some people had reported it as early as 1963. Regardless of the date the Russian Woodpecker was traced back to the Soviet Union. The sources were found in Kiev, Minsk, Chernobyl, Gomel and Chernihiv but eventually narrowed down through speculation has been made that there was more than one transmitter. Wireless World, 1977 muses that along with the OTH system the Russians might be trying to utilise radar returns or another source that worked along side it, or around two or more spots.

I wondered if this was plausible or were we just putting more technical knowledge to that in retrospect or are we accepting that NATO might not have been entirely accurate? The NATO name for DUGA-1 is quoted as STEEL YARD, some sources also use STEELWORK. It is officially recorded name may well be different but not disclosed for security purposes.

Some points of interest are that they realised when listening that it was not used as a form of jamming because Moscow and pro-Soviet Stations were also caught by it, so it couldn’t be reliable enough for that. The signal used three repetition rates of 10Hz, 16Hz and 20Hz, but the most common was 10. They used a fairly wide bandwidth, usually 40Khz.

An attempt to stop the signals causing interruptions came along, one of the ways was tor try and use signals at the same pulsing rate, people formed a club called The Russian Woodpecker Hunting Club. The transmissions slowed down in the 1980’s by 1989 they had disappeared. This slow down and eventual end does coincide with the Cold War closing down, the official end being 8th December 1971 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Another factor in the close would be a further advancement in early warning systems, satellite systems are far more advanced and less likely to be affected by adverse weather.

The original Duga system was experimental and it lies outside of the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. It was restored in 2002 after it was badly damaged by fire. As of October 2013 there is a possibility to visit the Ukrainian site via tour operators for Chernobyl who know how to get the correct paperwork.

For those who like modern reference here are some ways the Duga has been imported into modern media.

If, like me, you enjoy games like Metro Last Light or S.T.A.L.K.E.R then you may already know this… Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is a heavy feature in S.T.A.L.K.E.R and specifically around the nuclear accident. The Duga array is in Clear Sky after the main campaign game. It is in the fictional city of Limansk-13 you can see it and visit it in game. The ‘Brain Scorcher’, a military installation, is inspired by the idea that Duga-1 was used for mind-control.

Call of Duty:Black Ops the map ‘Grid’ is placed in Pripyat and the array can be seen in game there too.

A documentary by Chad Garcia looks into the Chernobyl disaster and the potential links to the structure. The documentary interviews people directly involved in the building and operation of the installation.