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Russian City Called 'Graveyard of the Earth,' Closed Off to Visitors

Jul 25, 2016 02:44 AM EDT
Wandsworth cemetery
Wandsworth cemetery
(Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/Henry Lawford)

The 1970 film "China Syndrome" shocked the world about the crippling effects of nuclear accidents. However, for one city in Russia, residents lived in such conditions where nuclear accidents were a norm. Contaminated water and poison berries plague Ozersk, dubbed as the "Graveyard of the Earth."

For the 100,000 citizens living in Ozersk, life was bountiful even in times when the rest of Russia crawled through poverty. Tucked in the Ural Mountains, residents of Ozersk had plentiful sources for food, lived in private apartments, sent their children to well-regarded schools, and had access to great healthcare.

Yet, there is a downside to living in the place called "Graveyard of the Earth." According to a report by the Guardian, water is contaminated, berries and mushrooms are poisoned, and the children are sick. City 40, another name for the city of Ozersk, was the site of Soviet Union's nuclear weapons program.

It has been 70 years since the city was built to cover up the Mayak nuclear plant. Residents of Ozersk have been plagued by nuclear accidents due to the waste dumped into rivers and lakes.

"The rate of cancer is enormous and their kids are born with cancer," stated amira Goetschel, who had produced the documentary City 40. "They die with cancer. But they take it as part of life."

Despite the harsh conditions of Ozersk, why do citizens continue to live in the city? The answer is simple, they had no choice. For the first several years, residents were banned from leaving the city. Communication with the outside world was also prohibited. Thankfully, the conditions have changed.

On certain days, citizens of Ozersk may obtain an exit visa to leave the closed city. However, residents would lose the privilege to return to Ozersk. As for other Russians and foreigners, an approval to enter the closed city is required.

"You know, it's double barbed-wire fences, it's heavily guarded," added Goetschel.

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