Haunting Photos of Nuclear Test Sites in Secret Soviet Cities

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In their heyday, Semipalatinsk-16 and Moscow-10 weren’t represented on a map. There were no street signs to lead you there. And if you wanted to live there, the KGB had to approve your relocation with the proper security clearances. These were secret Soviet cities that became missile test sites. Today they are known as Kurchatov (in Kazakhstan) and Priozersk (in Russia).

Aritst Nadav Kander was fascinated by these closed cities, which he captured on camera. “Hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated in the so-called ‘Plygon’ near Kurchatov until the program ended in 1989. The bombs were exploded in a remote but still populated area, and convert studies were made of the effects of the radiation on the unsuspecting inhabitants,” reads the photographer’s statement. “[Kander] was then drawn to the bleak Aral Sea where there had been a military presence in the area, which had been responsible for launching the missiles used in the development of the defense systems in Moscow 10.”

Kander’s photos are available in the book Dust, which will be released on October 31. If you happen to be in London, you can catch an exhibit of Kander’s work at Flowers Gallery through October 11th.

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

The Polygon Nuclear Test Site (After the Event), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

Kurchatov III (Technical Area), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

Kurchatov IV (Telephone Exchange), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

Kurchatov V (Heating Plant), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

Priozersk II, (Tulip in Bloom), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

Priozersk XIV (I Was Told She Once Held an Oar), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

The Aral Sea I (Officers Housing), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

The Aral Sea III (Fishing Trawler), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

The Polygon Nuclear Test Site I (After the Event), Kazakhstan

Photo credit: Nadav Kander

The Polygon Nuclear Test Site I, Kazakhstan