No More Settlements and Ghost Towns of the USSR: Why People Left These Places Forever
It is impossible to say exactly how many ghost towns there are in the former Soviet Union. Recently, they have become a favorite place for adventurers and those interested in a bygone era. If once people left these places, for whatever reason, now, on the wave of popularity of “the end of the world”, the Mayan Calendar, predictions of Vanga and other apocalyptic sentiments, again rushed into these ghost towns. Although they are now on the margins of modernity, they were once thriving cities, so what happened to make people leave them in droves?
There are many reasons why abandonments are becoming so popular. The modern tourist is fed up with beaches and excursions, he wants something more exciting and mysterious. Especially demanded such places for creative individuals and those who have an audience on the Internet. After all, it is much more interesting to share “informal” with subscribers than the tired excursions to traditional attractions.
Strolling through the quiet streets of abandoned cities tickles the nerves and is extremely exciting. Behind every detail is a story, someone’s life and hopes. It is as if the city is frozen on its last breath and slowly disintegrating.
Now Pripyat is dominated by nature.
Perhaps the most famous dead city, to visit which many would like to, despite all the bans (or perhaps because of it). Although there are legal excursion tours, too. Those who have been there claim that the sight is actually worthwhile – the city was abandoned in a hurry. Unmade beds, scattered toys, and other household items give the impression that people have recently left their homes. And the city itself is frozen in the 80s, and, thanks to the fact that the zone was closed, the buildings were virtually untouched by looters and vandals, remaining in pristine condition, except for the fact that nature has ruled here for the past few decades.
The streets and buildings of Pripyat are gradually overgrown with grass and trees, and some buildings are no longer recognizable from a few meters away. Many buildings are beginning to collapse, for example, a few years ago one of the walls of the school fell down. However, there are active facilities on the grounds and that is in addition to the checkpoint at the entrance. There is a special laundry, a water fluoridation and de-ironing station, and a garage.
Photographers love to take pictures of the Ferris wheel, it looks especially epic.
On the south side of town, the so-called redwood forest has almost recovered. It had turned an unnatural brownish color after the accident, and it glowed at night. Then the trees were flattened and buried; now the forest has begun to regenerate naturally.
According to the last census in 1985, almost 48 thousand people lived in Pripyat. Every year the population increased by one and a half thousand people only due to newcomers. More than 25 nationalities were counted among those who worked at the nuclear power plant.
The city died at the peak of its possibilities, frozen and deserted overnight, remaining an eternal city of the 1980s. For some, this is the main intriguing moment, because to plunge into the 80s is like being in your childhood or going back to your youth.
Halmer-Yu (Komi Republic)
Only a few buildings have survived.
The name of the village speaks for itself and almost predicts the tragic fate. From the Nenets Halmer-Yu translates as “river of the dead”, dead water. The very place for the Nenets was a cult – a place to bury the dead. The strangeness associated with the future coal settlement does not end here.
The coal field, discovered in 1942, was discovered by a group of scientists who were cut off from the outside world because of the weather conditions. And this despite the fact that the distance from Vorkuta is only 70 km. The scientists could not be found for several months, all of their food supplies by then had long since run out, they were in extreme exhaustion, unable to move. They repeatedly tried to send help to them on reindeer, but the animals did not reach their destination and died.
But even those were already collapsing.
Their sacrifices were unwarranted, despite the fact that the amount of coal extracted was not large, it was a fossil needed for coke production. Despite the fact that the settlement was relatively small and up to 8 thousand people lived here, the standard of living was high. There was a kindergarten, school, hospital, preventorium, hospital, library, bakery – all that was necessary for a small but developing settlement. The northernmost weather station in the republic was also located here.
The settlement appeared on the coal mine and disappeared with its termination. In 1993 the mine was recognized unprofitable, and two years later it was decided to relocate people. And people were practically driven out of their own apartments and put on trains by force. Many of them received apartments in Vorkuta, some of them unfinished, while others had to squeeze into dormitory rooms.
Immediately after the resettlement, the city was turned into a military base. During training exercises, bombers smashed up cultural buildings. Now the empty boxes are all that’s left of Halmer-Yu, the wooden buildings burned to the ground.
Neftegorsk (Sakhalin region).
Many buildings did not survive the earthquake.
This village was deserted through no fault of man, it is likely that if no natural cataclysm happened, the future of the oil village would have been safe and prosperous. Until 1970 the village was called “Vostok”, then it was renamed in Neftegorsk, which suited it better, because the oil workers lived here with their families. All in all, more than three thousand people. But the infrastructure was quite developed, so there were four kindergartens.
In May 1995, just at the graduation party and the guys were celebrating it in a cafe, there was a terrible earthquake. Neftegorsk was just three dozen kilometers from its epicenter and it was literally razed to the ground. More than two thousand people died under the debris of their own homes, including graduates of the school in that very cafe.
A rescue operation was launched immediately after the earthquake, involving 1,500 people. It was here that the “five minutes of silence” technique was first used – every hour a break was taken for five minutes, with the equipment and conversations stopped. This helped identify where the sounds were coming from – cries for help, crying or moaning. Thanks to this, dozens of people were saved.
The village was not revived, and there were no more people who wanted to live there. Now there is only a cemetery, a chapel and a memorial complex. The village died along with its inhabitants…
Mologa (Yaroslavl Region)
The church appears out of the water in the first place.
Even by the name it is clear that the city has a rich history. The city, located 120 kilometers from Yaroslavl, really had a rich history. Its history goes back to the 12th century, and up to the 19th century Mologa was a major trading center, with hundreds of shops and stores and over seven thousand people.
In 1935 it was decided to build the Rybinsk Reservoir and that was the beginning of the end for Mologa. Thus, the water level of the reservoir was 102 meters, and the city was at 98.
The resettlement was hard; many buildings, especially the tallest ones, were torn down and leveled. The same was done to the churches. More than three hundred townspeople flatly refused to leave their hometown, and the number of suicides increased. The city was flooded after all. But in the 90s, part of the city opened because of the shallowing of the reservoir – you could see the metal bars on the fences of the tombs, foundations, and what remained of the buildings. The sight was very impressive, local historians organized a museum of Mologa and collected a lot of material thanks to it. Now the level in the reservoir periodically changes and the city comes to the surface, attracting those who love ghost towns.
Kadykchan (Magadan Region).
The place is also very atmospheric.
The history of this settlement is also associated with the development of coal deposits. Here was also built a thermal power plant, which fed most of the region. Kadykchan is not the only abandoned village in the Magadan region, many settlements were deserted after the end of coal mining. However, Kadykchan has a slightly different history than most.
The village was built by prisoners, and in 1986 there were already more than 10 thousand people living there. But the less coal in the mine became, the less population there was. It is likely that many would have stayed here despite the lack of a working enterprise. But a series of mishaps drove the population out of their settled place. In 1996 there was an explosion in the mine that killed six miners at once. This accident affected the work of the unprofitable enterprise, many began to leave, seeing no prospects here.
After the boiler house broke down in winter and people were left without heat, those who were still left. It became obvious that no one would invest in construction and repairs for the sake of a dying village. In 2006, there were still people living here, but very few. And now only one man and a few of his dogs live here.
Charonda (Vologda region).
The village, located on the shore of Lake Vozhe, appeared in the 13th century. It was a trading post where caravans stopped and the locals fished. Along with the growth of commercial interests, the settlement grew, which corresponded to the interests of visitors: there were houses for guests, similar to hotels, the number of residents grew. In the 17th century there were more than 11 thousand people.
But the emergence of the city of Arkhangelsk had a negative impact on the fate of Charonda. The first settlement turned out to be more convenient for merchants. Although in the early 18th century Charonda officially received the name of the city, but 70 years later it became a village again, and the population was leaving the dying settlement. However, there are still a few people who do not want to leave their homes.
There is no electricity and no road, and you can only get to the village through the lake. By the way, the church, which was built in the early 19th century, is still intact here.
Aghdam (Nagorny Karabakh).
Once a blooming city has turned into ruins.
Only a large mosque reminds one of the major settlements that once existed here. Such a temple could be built only in a large settlement. The settlement was founded in the 18th century on the eastern slope of the Karabakh ridge. The decision to have a minaret here was made by a local khan who decided to build a mosque of white stone for himself. Agdam, which means “white roof” in Azerbaijani, became the identification mark of the area, travelers would go to the white roof and as a result Aghdam became a major trade center.
Having obtained the status of a city, Agdam had its own food factories, railway branch line, theaters and educational institutions. Archeological excavations were conducted here and a museum of bread was established. In 1990s the population of the city was nearly 30 thousand people.
But during the Karabakh war the most fierce battles took place in this very place and the city was destroyed. But the mosque and the white roof remained intact, the belligerents did not dare to destroy the temple.
The village fell into the exclusion zone.
The village was founded in the 17th century, at the same time a large church was built. By the 19th century the settlement had grown, there was a school, a college, a bakery, a mill, a shop. A collective farm was founded there.
The village was empty after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, residents urgently evacuated. But now the village, though empty, but not abandoned. Those who once lived here, prefer to come here for eternal rest, so the cemetery in this village is the most “lively” place. Relatives also come here to take care of the graves.
Still preserved manor house, a garden with three alleys of oaks, linden and hornbeam.
Kursha-2 (Ryazan region).
Settlement with tragic history.
The history of the worker’s settlement is tragic, it is the case when the settlement died with its inhabitants. The settlement was founded by loggers, wood, after processing was taken by narrow gauge railway to Ryazan and Vladimir. About a thousand local residents of Kursa-2 were engaged in logging. Residents of surrounding villages came here to earn money – life was boiling, the work was going on.
In 1938 a fire started near one of the neighboring villages, a strong wind blew the fire to Kursa. A train was sent to evacuate people – it was known that a strong fire was approaching. But there was an order to evacuate already harvested wood, not people. The train was loaded to the last moment – the fire was approaching and people were loaded on top. But it was too late – the bridge, through which the train was supposed to pass, caught fire. As a result, the train, loaded with wood and people, caught fire.
The death toll amounted to more than 1000 people, including those who were left to put out the fire and those who were on the train. Kursha was reconstructed, but people still did not get used to it; now it is a nature reserve complex, and a memorial to the victims is erected at the place of the mass grave.
The once majestic buildings are now abandoned.
Most of the settlements that sprang up on the fields live as long as there are minerals, and then the once active life comes to naught. But in the case of the urban village of Promyshlenny, this is somewhat different.
The settlement emerged around two mines, built houses by prisoners, but later those who came to the North for the “long ruble” settled here. At the best of times, there were more than 10,000 residents, a sports complex, a restaurant, a school, and a kindergarten. Probably, life in the town would have gone on as usual had it not been for the terrible tragedy that cut short the lives of 27 miners. One of the mines had already been closed by that time, and the second one was hurriedly shut down as well. The more so that the accident became the cause for investigations and revealed many violations.
A few years later, workers were killed again while dismantling the building of a mine that was not in operation. Once again, the PGT drew unpleasant attention. Families were displaced, and the second mine was also officially closed. Now it is a completely empty settlement.